Submitted by: Karyn Oyler, SPHR

Text Messaging and an Employee’s Right to Privacy

Does your company provide its employees with pagers or cell phones with texting capabilities? Does your current employee policy manual specifically address the privacy of those devices?

As communication rapidly takes on new forms, the legal system is struggling is keep up. However, it is important that as HR professionals we are proactive in protecting the companies and employees we represent.

On April 26th, in SHRM’s weekly email, there was an article regarding the U.S. Supreme Court addressing workplace privacy in regards to texting. The case is City of Ontario v. Quan (No. 08-1332). The case is in currently ongoing, but involves the employee’s “reasonable expectation to privacy” when texting on company provided equipment vs. the employer’s obligation to fiscal and legal responsibilities to protect both the company and its employees.

The main point of contention in this case is the lack of a written policy that specifically addresses the use of all company property for business vs. personal use. Many companies have incorporated some type of “e-mail/internet” policy. However, most do not specifically include company-provided pagers or cell phones.

The Legislative Committee is following this topic closely and we will continue to update our members on the outcome of this case and any new information on the issue.

Please visit the IndySHRM group on LinkedIn and join our discussion regarding this topic. We would appreciate hearing your views and how your company is currently addressing this issue.