The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week over whether text messages sent from an employer-issued phone are still considered private messages of the employee. The facts of the case are not at issue. A California police department issued pagers to employees, and told them there was a no-privacy rule. Later, the same officer told employees that any messages beyond the 25,000 character limit, if the employee paid for the extra charges, would be considered private.
After that, the officer got tired of collecting money from employees. The police chief then decided to review the messages of employees with the highest usage, to see if the department should up the text message usage limit allowance. They discovered sexually explicit messages from one employee. Although the employee had paid for the messages, he was still reprimanded for using his pager for personal reasons while on the job, and for using explicit language.
A federal appeals court ruled the department violated the officer’s reasonable expectation of privacy because they were told the messages would be private. The department then appealed to the Supreme Court.