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NLRB Permits Employers to Search Company Devices and Employee Property, Including Cars

By Fiona W. Ong - Shawe Rosenthal LLP

June 30, 2020

In Verizon Wireless, the National Labor Relations Board held that employer rules authorizing the monitoring of company electronic devices and searches of employee property, including cars, were lawful.

First, the Board noted that, under existing precedent, employers lawfully may monitor its employees’ company-issued computers and devices for legitimate management reasons, and consequently may implement a policy to inform its employees of such monitoring.

The Board then applied its Boeing standard to a rule authorizing searches of employee property, including cars, on the employer’s premises. In The Boeing Company, the Board divided workplace rules into three categories, depending on whether they (1) are lawful, (2) warrant individualized scrutiny, or (3) are unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. The Board found that employees would reasonably understand the purpose of the car search rule to be, as stated in the policy, “to protect company assets, provide excellent service, ensure a safe workplace, and to investigate improper use or access.” Moreover, while the rule reserves the right by management to undertake such searches, there is nothing that suggests such searches would take place routinely or frequently. The employer’s interest in promulgating the rule was “compelling,” the employees would reasonably not understand the rule to prevent the exercise of their rights under the NLRA, and the rule was thereby a lawful Category 1 rule.

This case supports the ability of employers to take reasonable, common-sense measures to ensure the safety and security of its property and its personnel in the workplace.

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