In June, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in City of Ontario v. Quon, siding with the City and its officials in a workplace electronic monitoring case closely followed by employers and their counsel. The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion, holding the government employer’s search of a police officer’s personal and work-related text messages on an employer-issued pager was reasonable, and therefore the officer’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. (See our previous blog posting.)
The City of Ontario issued pagers to city employees, including police officers, for use in their jobs. The City, like most employers, had a written electronics communications policy that expressly prohibited personal use of its computers and notified employees that they had no expectation of privacy with respect to any communications using the City’s computer systems. The City’s policy, however, did not make clear that this policy applied to its pagers or to text messaging. Its contract with its service provider included a monthly limit on the number of characters each pager could send or receive, and specified that usage exceeding that number would result in an additional fee.