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Employment Blog

NLRB Judge Trumps Casino’s Employee Handbook E-Mail Policy

Authored by Ruder Ware Attorneys
Posted on May 9, 2016
Filed under Employment

Last week, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board concluded that Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino’s (“Rio”) employee handbook policy addressing “Use of Company Systems, Equipment, and Resources,” violated the National Labor Relations Act.   The case is Ceasars Entertainment Corporation, No. 28-CA-060841.   In Ceasars, the Board ALJ was called upon to review the following handbook policy language that prohibited, among other things, the use of e-mail systems for:

                Send[ing] chain letters or other forms of non-business information.

Rio employs both union and non-union employees at its Las Vegas, Nevada location [about half are union represented].  Significantly, Rio granted access to e-mail systems to numerous rank-and-file employees in connection with their jobs.   As such, under the Obama Board’s relatively new Purple Communications standard, because Rio gave these employees access to e-mail for work purposes, these employees must be permitted to utilize Rio’s e-mail system for union-related communications and solicitations during nonworking time.  The Board ALJ concluded that the above-referenced policy language, “essentially constitutes a ban on all nonbusiness communication via email”—even during nonworking hours.   For this reason, the ALJ found that the policy language was illegal. 

The typical remedy in a case like this, which was implemented in Ceasars, is a cease and desist order requiring the employer to rescind the offending handbook policy, replace it with something acceptable to the Board, and conspicuously post a notice alerting employees about their rights to form a union [or not form a union] under the National Labor Relations Act.

In light of Ceasars, businesses are encouraged to again reexamine handbook policies governing the use of electronic communications systems.   This decision in the most-recent illustration of the government’s hairsplitting in the employee handbook arena, and emphasis on e-mail policies in particular.