Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Supreme Court to Hear Employee Text Messaging Case

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear today a case appealed by the city of Ontario, Calif., and its police department — a case involving the blackberrt hand-held communication device. The petition tests whether there is a constitutionally-based right of privacy in text messages for employees of a government agency and, if there is such a right, whether it is less extensive for city employees using government-owned electronic pagers. The case involves the city of Ontario, California's review of text messages that a member of a police SWAT team had sent to another officer with whom he was having a romantic affair, and also messages he had sent to his wife. The Court'a decision in thia case likely will involve the examination a 1987 decision of the Court, Connor v. Ortega, which recognized some workplace privacy for public employees, but at the same time counseled that courts should take into account the "operational realities" of the workplace.