Employers should not restrict employees from using company computers to announce union elections. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided recently that employees have the right to use company computers for union business. The NLRB reasoned that employees now share and relay information by email as they used to do by gathering around the water cooler. By law, employees have the right to communicate about the “terms and conditions of employment.” The NLRB decided that employees have the right to use their company email systems to communicate about the “terms and conditions of employment.”
There are some limits, though, according to the NLRB decision. The employer can restrict the use of its computer systems for union activity to non-working time, the employer can impose restrictions on the use of its computer systems to maintain productivity as long as those rules are enforced uniformly and not used to ban lawful union activity, and the employer can restrict non-employees (such as the union) from using its email systems.
Employers should consult with counsel to craft a policy on the use of its email systems and computers that protects the employer while not unlawfully barring union-related activities.