While conceding that companies are not required to provide email systems for their employees, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that, once an email system is in place, employees must be allowed to use it for “protected, concerted” activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Concretely, that means employees can discuss wages and benefits, send out union organizing messages and even gripe and complain about company policies and personnel via company email. However, such communications must be conducted only in non-work time.

The NLRB ruling in Purple Communications Inc. grants employers a small loophole to prove that unrestricted email usage hurts workforce production and discipline. If they can prove that, then they can ban non-work-related email use.

If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.