The fact scenario is more Judge Joe Brown than the Supreme Court.
A police seargent in California sued the city of Ontario for violating his privacy after the police chief read hundreds of personal text messages, many of the “sext” variety, sent to a fellow searagent, his girlfriend and his wife on his employer-owned device.
The Supreme Court announced today it will hear the case of the police seargent, also brought by two of the seargent’s co-workers. The Ninth Circuit held that the police chief reading the texts constituted an “unreasonable search” that violated the Fourth Amendment.
Reuters has the story here.
Though the case will directly impact government employees, the ruling could have a huge impact on the way all employers view their communication policies.
Though the increased employer distribution of devices that allow texting and email have resulted in some cracks in employers’ claims that any messages sent on them are subject to review, most employers still insist that employees have no expectation of privacy for their personal messages.
“The Quon case is very important. It came down at a moment when there was virtually no protection for employee privacy,” Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J. told the Los Angeles Times. “If it stands, it would mean employees for the first time could communicate at work with privacy.”
The city of Ontario has such explicit, written rules.
The case, City of Ontario, California v. Jeff Quon will likely be heard in the spring, with a decision sometime in June.
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