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Limiting Non-business E-mail: Define Precisely and Enforce Consistently

Last month, my post Court Curbs Inspection of Employee Text Messages discussed an employer that was held to have unreasonably searched employee text messages because, despite a policy stating that employer-supplied technology must be used only for the employer’s business activities, that policy was undercut when it was only selectively enforced.

Continuing this theme, in a more recent case, Guard Publishing v. NLRB, the D.C. Circuit held that selective enforcement of a policy limiting employee e-mails constituted a violation of federal labor law.

In my opinion, Guard Publishing actually made two mistakes. First, the e-mail policy prohibited “non-job-related solicitations” (emphasis added) but did not prohibit other other non-job-related communications. So the employer gave itself the ability to limit only a fraction of all possible non-business communications.

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