U.S. Supreme Court to decide on privacy of text messages on employer-owned devices

Legal news for California general litigation attorneys. The Supreme Court will rule if employees have the right to privacy of their text messages on employer-supplied devices.

U.S. Supreme Court is ruling on an appeal of a Ontario, California police department over privacy rights of text messages on job-supplied electronic devices.

Ontario, CA—For the first time the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether employees have a right to privacy when it comes to their text messages on electronic devices that are supplied by their job. The decision, which is expected to be revealed in June, will be a precedent setting decision, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals ruled last year that police officers had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” with their text messages. The ruling came after four police officers from the police department in Ontario, California, sued the department after their text messages, which some were of explicit sexual nature, were read by the police chief. The police officers were allegedly led to believe by a supervisor that their electronic devices, such as cell phones, were also available for person use. But the city officials refuted the claims, and stated they informed their employees, which includes police officers, that they were not guaranteed the right of privacy when using their city-supplied texting-enabled devices. In addition, the police chief claimed the texting devices are to be used for official police business. He reportedly asked to see the messages, which were obtained by the service provider, Arch Wireless Co., to determine if the devices were being used for personal affairs. The wireless company turned over the manuscripts of the text messages to the police.

The appeals court ruled last year that the police chief’s actions violated the officers 4th Amendment rights. In addition, the court determined the wireless company violated the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, when it supplied the police chief with the manuscripts. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the appeal from the police department, titled City of Ontario vs. Quon, in the end of the June.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for California general litigation lawyers.

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