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A Wake-up Call For 21st Century Employers

September 29, 2010

September 29, 2010 (Mountain View, CA) – Robert Brownstone, Law & Technology Director and co-chair of the Electronic Information Management Group and Sheeva Ghassemi-Vanni, Associate in the Litigation Group at Fenwick & West LLP, recently co-authored an article entitled "A Wake-up Call For 21st Century Employers," that was published in the Daily Journal.

The article addresses the June 2010 Supreme Court's decision regarding the City of Ontario v. Quon, a case involving text messages sent and received by a police officer, Jeff Quon, on a city-issued pager. While the city had no text messaging policy, it had a computer and e-mail policy prohibiting the use of city-owned computers and all associated equipment for personal benefit, also stating that employees had no expectation of privacy in e-mail messages sent on the city's system.

The court ruled that an employer's acquisition of employees' text message transcripts to determine whether the messages were personal or business-related in nature was not an unreasonable search, and therefore no Fourth Amendment search and seizure violation occurred. The ruling sent a message to employers: have a clear policy in place regarding personal use of all electronic communications and devices—not just computers and e-mail.

Brownstone and Ghassemi-Vanni provide a detailed overview for employers regarding the "Dos and Don'ts" of consistent, appropriate enforcement policies related to employees' use of electronic information. They address the effects of the Quon case and offer takeaways for both public and private sector employers on an effective, appropriate workplace technology-acceptable-use policy.

To read the Daily Journal article in its entirety, click here (subscription required).