By David G. Savage
June 17, 2010
WASHINGTON - People who want to send highly personal notes to a romantic
partner were given a word of warning Thursday by the Supreme Court: Do
not use the messaging system supplied by your employer if you want to
keep them private.
In a 9-0 ruling, the justices rejected a broad right of privacy for
workers and said a supervisor may read through a public employee's text
messages if he or she suspects work rules are being violated.
The decision was the high court's first to consider the privacy rights
of employees who send messages on the job. It comes at a time when
millions of American workers spend at least part of their day talking on
phones or sending messages on computers or cell phones, many of which
are supplied by their employers.
At issue was whether the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable
searches" puts any limits on searches by public employers. The court
said the limits were minimal, so long as the employer had a
"work-related purpose" for inspecting an employee's desk or reading the
messages sent by the employee on its paging system.
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