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Text messages and employee privacy: The Supreme Court weighs in

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

by Keith Watts, Esq.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a California police department’s search of an officer’s text messages was reasonable and didn’t violate the officer’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The court said that even if the officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages, the search was motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and was not excessive in scope, making the search reasonable.

The case is City of Ontario v. Quon (No. 08–1332, U.S. Supreme Court, 2010).

Text messages: Like e-mail?

Jeff Quon was a police sergeant with the Ontario Police Department (OPD), which acquired 20 pagers capable of sending and receiving text messages. It contracted with Arch Wireless Operating Company to provide wireless services. Arch charged an overage fee if messages exceeded 25,000 characters in a month.

The city adopted a “Computer Usage, Internet and E-mail Policy” that applied to all employees. It s...(register to read more)

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