This post was written by Paul Bond.
Companies routinely issue communications devices to employees for on-the-job use. Employees routinely use such devices to conduct personal business, wasting company resources and sometimes violating company codes of conduct. Under what circumstances may a company monitor messages to and from an employer-issued device? That question is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case City of Ontario v. Quon.
The CSO Breakfast Club, an organization of Chief Information Security Officers from around the country, recently interviewed Rimon attorney Paul Bond about the potential ramifications of the case.
The City issued Sergeant Quon a pager for work use and he signed an agreement acknowledging he had no expectation of privacy in his communications. When Sergeant Quon kept going over his character quota, a supervisor told him the supervisor would not audit communications, provided Sergeant Quon paid for the overages. A departmental audit revealed that Sergeant Quon was regularly sending highly inappropriate texts to his wife, girlfriend, and a fellow officer. All of them sued the City for violations of their constitutional rights to privacy. The Supreme Court briefing and a transcript of the spirited oral argument are available at SCOTUS Wiki, (neither Legal Bytes nor Rimon can vouch for the accuracy of the material or analysis on this external link).
Employers are watching this case closely to see if the nation’s highest court will provide any guidance on the ground-rules for monitoring employee use (and abuse) of company-issued communications devices; but whether you want to stay in tune with developments or you need help in this area, contact Paul Bond. Of course, you can always call me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.