Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP
USA June 22 2010
Supreme Court Holds That Government Employer’s Search of Employee’s Text Messages on Company Pager Was Reasonable Under the Fourth Amendment
On June 17, 2010, the US Supreme Court released City of Ontario v. Quon, in which the Court (in a unanimous decision, with Justice Scalia concurring) reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision and held that a government employer’s search of employee text messages was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
In Quon the police department asked a private company to release an employee’s full text messages due to overuse of the approved texting plan. The department wanted to ensure that its texting plan was sufficient and that employees were not paying for work-related overages. It was discovered that most of the messages sent by Quon were personal and several were inappropriate, resulting in employee discipline. The Ninth Circuit held that this violated the Fourth Amendment because viewing the full text of the messages was not necessary to address the aim of the search. In reversing, the Supreme Court held that because the search of Quon’s text messages was reasonable the police department did not violate Quon’s Fourth Amendment rights.
The Court did not address whether the employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the text...
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