Supreme Court Holds That Employer May Lawfully Search Public Employee's Private Text Messages

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In City of Ontario v. Quon, decided on June 17, 2010, the United States Supreme Court held, for the first time, that the City of Ontario’s review of a police officer’s text messages was reasonable and, therefore, did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In Quon, Jeff Quon repeatedly exceeded the character limit on his work-issued pager. The City therefore audited his text messages, and uncovered hundreds of personal messages, some of which were sexual in nature. Although the Court declined to address whether Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages, the Court held that, even if he did, a public employer may reasonably search an employee’s property at work where the search is non-investigatory, work-related or incident to an investigation of work related misconduct, without violating the Fourth Amendment.

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