Q&A: Disciplinary Action for Email Communication

Q: Can I discipline or terminate an employee for using the company email system to send disrespectful messages about the company?

A: It depends on what the disrespectful messages are

Under the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees are permitted to engage in “protected concerted activity,” regardless of whether or not they are part of a union. Protected concerted activity is defined as planned activity for the “purpose of mutual aid or protection” (NLRA §7). This protects many statements made about wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment, especially when the purpose of the statements is to initiate group action. Statements that are “truly insubordinate or disruptive of the work process” are not protected, however, and are grounds for disciplinary action or termination. Discussing private company affairs with outsiders through email is not protected either.


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The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information above contains only a summary of the applicable legal provisions and does not purport to cover every aspect of any particular law, regulation or requirement. Depending on the specific facts of any situation, there may be additional or different requirements. This is to be used only as a guide and not as a definitive description of your compliance obligations.