Supreme Court Ruling Allows Public Employees Text Messages to Be Read

Technology is changing everywhere and part of this technology is the use of cell phones and texting ability. Many of us across the country and right here in Tennessee use cell phones each day, and may even be guilty of texting while at work a time or two, but a new ruling has allowed employers to read personal text messages of employees when the text messaging service is supplied by the employer or when it is violation of work rules.

This ruling is very important because it discusses employment and privacy rights and laws. This ruling also questioned the Fourth Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches” and questions whether this puts limits on public employers, mostly due to a privacy lawsuit filed by police officer, Sgt. Jeff Quon in Ontario, California, when the department’s chief of police Lloyd Scharf decided to read some of the text messages being sent using the department’s texting pagers. The lawsuit found that Sgt. Jeff Quon was texting personal messages to his ex-wife and girlfriend, using these pagers. After this happened, Sgt. Jeff Quon sued on the basis of privacy and won his case. However, this ruling the law favors the employer not the employee and the employee has “limited privacy expectation” when using a texting pager supplied by the department.

The search was considered reasonable because it was for a legitimate work-related reason and was not excessive. This ruling was thought to be very narrow and does not dispute all the issues that will come up in the future concerning technology and privacy rights for employees and their employers.

Many of us here in Tennessee and around the world, use technology such as computers, cell phones, and text messaging every day. However, maybe this ruling will be a wakeup call to many people that sometimes privacy laws and rights do not apply in some cases involving technology and the workplace. If you or your loved one have any questions or concerns about how this may affect you and your privacy, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced and caring Tennessee employment attorneys right away. We will hear your case, answer your questions and make sure your rights are being well protected.

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