Washington…In its first ruling on the rights of employees who send messages on the job, the Supreme Court rejected a broad right of privacy for workers Thursday and said supervisors may read through an employee's text messages if they suspect the work rules are being violated.
In a 9-0 ruling, the justices said a police chief in southern California did not violate the constitutional rights of an officer when he read the transcripts of sexually explicit text messages sent from the officer's pager.
In this case, the high court said the police chief's reading of the officer's text messages was a search, but it was also reasonable.
Police Sgt. Jeff Quon had sued the chief and the city of Ontario, California after he learned the chief had read through thousands of text messages he had sent to his wife and a girl friend. Quon won in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost in the Supreme Court Thursday.
The scope of the investigation by the employer was not unreasonable and within the scope of determining whether the large amount of text messages was work related. What kind of corporate risk initiatives will be impacted by this ruling?
As corporations continue to battle the "Insider" risk associated with occupational fraud, workplace violence related stalking or sexting, industrial espionage, corruption and violations of acceptable use policies this case will become an example. What will continue to be the challenge for OPS Risk professionals who are responsible for internal monitoring, digital asset audits and insider investigations of potential malfeasance is the scope and reasonable nature of the case.
Get ready for a rush to the local Verizon Wireless or AT&T store for your own personal PDA or iPhone due to Justice Kennedy's ruling:
What’s more, Kennedy suggested that privacy in the modern age has more than one meaning.
“Cell phone and text message communications are so pervasive that some persons may consider them to be essential means or necessary instruments for self-expression, even self identification. That might strengthen the case for an expectation of privacy. On the other hand, the ubiquity of those devices has made them generally affordable, so one could counter that employees who need cell phones or similar devices for personal matters can purchase and pay for their own. And employer policies concerning communications will of course shape the reasonable expectations of their employees, especially to the extent that such policies are clearly communicated. “