“Given the prevalence of cell phones, pagers and smart phones in the workplace, an opinion like this can have far-reaching impact,” said Kansas City employment law attorney David Kight.
“It says to most employers that they may not be able to stay ahead of every technological development, but as long as they have a policy that clearly tells employees that, if they supply the equipment, then they (employers) can look at how it’s used.”
Surveys have indicated that more than three-fourths of employers believe it’s reasonable to allow employees to send personal e-mail or text messages on employer-provided equipment, as long as use isn’t excessive and doesn’t interfere with work.
At the same time, surveys have found that nearly half of employers say they monitor employee e-mail use with either automatic or manual reviews, and about one-fourth have fired workers for abusing e-mail or texting policies.
The case emphasizes the importance of having well-communicated workplace policies governing use of communication devices.
In an acknowledgement that “the ubiquity of those devices has made them generally affordable,” the opinion also noted that “employees who need cell phones or similar devices for personal matters can purchase and pay for their own.”
The Supreme Court accepted the case after an appellate court had ruled that the city of Ontario had encroached on the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of police Sgt. Jeff Quon when it looked at the content of his pager messages sent during his shifts over a two-month period.
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Supreme Court ruling finds messages sent on employer-provided equipment not private - KansasCity.com