Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in Caesar’s Entertainment Inc. d/b/a Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino (Case No. 28-CA-060841) that employees do not have a statutory right to use employers’ email to engage in non-work-related communications.
The NLRB previously considered this issue in Purple Communications, Inc., 361 NLRB 1050. In that 2014 case, the Board held that employees who have been given access to their employer’s email system for work-related purposes have a presumptive right to use that system for communications protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects workers who engage in “concerted activity” regardless of whether they are union members.
The new decision in Caesar’s Entertainment Inc. overrules Purple Communications, stating that “[e]mployees have no statutory right to use employer equipment, including IT resources, for Section 7 purposes.” The NLRB further clarified that policies against using work email for company business are illegal to the extent they treat unions differently than similar outside organizations. While the Board added an exception to let workers use company email in the “rare cases where an employer’s email system furnishes the only reasonable means for employees to communicate with one another,” it confirmed that “an employer’s communication systems, including its email system, are its property” and “employers have a property right to control the use of those systems.” The Board also noted that employees have no Section 7 right to use employer-owned televisions, bulletin boards, copy machines, telephones, or public-address systems.
Caesar’s Entertainment Inc. thus affords employers greater latitude in prohibiting the non-work use of their equipment and resources, provided that in doing so they do not discriminate against union-related communications or other protected concerted communications.