Discharge for E-Mail Use Is Unlawful

By Hatch, D. Diane; Hall, James E. | Workforce, September 1997 | Go to article overview

Discharge for E-Mail Use Is Unlawful


Hatch, D. Diane, Hall, James E., Workforce


An employee was unlawfully discharged for sending e-mail messages to co-workers criticizing an employer's proposed vacation plan, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On December 1, 1995, Barry Markwitz, the CEO for a small nonunion company, Timekeeping Systems, sent employees an e-mail message proposing changes to the company's vacation policy and inviting employees to comment.

Over the next several days, after responding directly to the CEO, employee Larry Leinweber broadcast an e-mail to the company stating that the proposed changes would leave employees less flexibility, and declaring as "false" the CEO's assertion that the changes would result in more days off.

Markwitz ordered Leinweber to issue a public apology or face termination. When Leinweber refused, he was terminated for "failure to treat others with courtesy and respect" and "failure to follow instructions or to perform assigned work."

The NLRB explained that under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to act together for mutual aid and/or protection not necessarily related to union organizing. …

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