Legal Alert: Supreme Court Upholds City's Review of Employees' Text Messages


In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the City of Ontario did not violate its employees' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches by reviewing the employees' text messages sent on pagers provided by the City. See City of Ontario v. Jeff Quon (June 17, 2010). The Court did not rule on whether the employees had a privacy interest in the text messages, but instead assumed that they did and ruled on the issue of whether the City's search violated the Fourth Amendment. Although the decision involves a government employer, which is subject to the Fourth Amendment's restrictions, private employers may also find the decision instructive because the Court noted that the City's search also would have been reasonable in the private workplace. Thus, employers considering searching their employees' electronic communications should be aware of the factors the Court considered in finding the City's search reasonable.

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