Unit 02: Sexting case raises workplace privacy issues

The future of employee privacy rights in the workplace may hinge on a case that the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up involving a cop and sexting. Jeff Quon, a California SWAT sergeant, was given a pager from his employer, the Ontario Police Department. He was later found to have used the device not only for work but also for pleasure, often sending sexually explicit text messages to his wife and his mistress. Quon’s employer found out about his personal use of the pager after an investigation looking into excessive texting at the department. Quon cried foul, saying he thought the messages were confidential. As a result, Quon; his wife Jerilyn, who is also a police officer; his mistress, April Florio, who is a department dispatcher; and another sergeant, Steve Trujillo; sued the department, the city of Ontario, and the paging service company, Arch Wireless Operating Company, for violating their privacy rights.

All people have been heard about regular ethical issues such as lying about work subjects, personal relationships between employees and employers, accuracy in teaching process or  accuracy in reports to payers and funding sources during work life and these ethical issues are not new and unique. The one issue that was mentioned above is about work time and work equipment are often used for personal matters such as e-mailing a spouse about a child’s soccer game or texting a friend about what time to meet at the local bar after work. according to a survey report in 2009 by the ePolicy Institute and the American Management Association found that 79 percent of employees had used e-mail to send or receive personal messages. it means a huge number of people use work equipment as their personal uses. this percentage make us to think about why people use business email address or pagers for sending personal messages and what is solution?

No matter what your policy is or how much you try to control it, employees will probably use your equipment from time to time for personal purposes. The best way to handle the inevitable is to allow a reasonable amount of slack, but to be consistent and vigilant in creating and enforcing rules to make sure that the personal use doesn’t get excessive.

For example, for many businesses, employees use computers for the most important aspects of their work. So, what happens when employees begin doing personal business on these machines? Is “Monitoring” employees and employers during work hours an appropriate solution? or spying their emails or computers? we all know people don’t use work time and work equipment for personal reasons but what exactly can be stop individual doing that?

The type of policy you create to regulate the personal use of business equipment will depend on the type of business you operate and the equipment used in your business. for example, your policy regarding the personal use of business computers could state that:

  •  Email and other computer files provided by the company are to be used for business purposes only.
  • Use of computer facilities for personal reasons is strictly prohibited (or, personal use may be permitted subject to approval).
  • Employees may not use computer files or software brought from home or other sources on the business computer (to avoid viruses).
  • The company reserves the right to enter, search, and monitor the computer files or email of any employee, without advance notice, for business purposes such as investigating theft, disclosure of confidential business or proprietary information, or personal abuse of the system, or monitoring work flow or productivity.

There are ethical codes and standards for each issue at workplace but the thing is how leaders would be able to set policy for organization to stop employees to use work equipment or time for personal uses and with what rules leaders can manage this issue and keep the environment safe and friendly at the same time.



American Psychological Association. (January, 2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 and 2016 amendments. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/




One Comment

  1. Nicole Jean Kennedy February 23, 2019 at 12:27 PM #

    Unit 2 – Blog Comment

    Hello Azadeh,

    Thank you for such a very thought-provoking blog! As a salaried employee, it is my duty to get the work done. I can do it from any place, at any time. I have the flexibility in my position to work Monday – Friday, on the weekends, in the mornings, or late at night. Also, my employer and more specifically, my supervisor, stresses the importance of having work/life balance. This is a huge benefit to me because I am a full-time wife, mom, and student in addition to just being a full-time employee. But what does this mean to me? This means that when I am sitting at the dining room table doing work, I feel I am able to take my employer-issued laptop into the kitchen to google an Instant Pot recipe and make my family dinner. This also means, after spending the day at a baseball game with my team (as a team building exercise) I can upload pictures of my team from my personal phone onto my work computer in order to send them to be printed. I then pay for these prints and decorate the office with fun memories. I am sitting here writing this blog response on my work computer. But, I’m taking this leadership program to better myself, my team, and my employer.

    This does not make me unethical. It’s unreasonable for a company to think that all personal business would never be conducted at work or on a device. The employer has a responsibility to ensure that its information is preserved and is secure. Ethically, as employees, it is imperative to keep employers’ interests in mind. We need to understand our actions can be monitored. But lines have been blurred due to advanced technology, the speed at which we do business today, and the expectation by the employers for employees to use devices that make us more productive. Times have changed. You no longer keep work and personal life separate. Also, the fact that the recipe websites aren’t blocked makes me think that this is allowed by the employer.

    Police Officer, Sargent Jeff Quon, his wife, and a few other employees, as you mentioned, sued the City of Ontario, California, their superiors, and the pager company, for a violation of their constitutional right and telecommunication privacy laws. The lawsuit was filed after the City of Ontario conducted an audit of text messages among the department when the department continually exceeded the monthly character limit. Sgt. Quon was upset when the text messages themselves were audited because he was originally promised (by his superior officer) that they would not be audited if the employees would reimburse the city for the fees it occurred for exceeding the monthly limit. The Supreme Court found in favor of the City of Ontario. The Court decided that the audit was work-related and did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure (Wikipedia, 2019).

    Thank you for sharing this example. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his opinion of the case, wrote that this case proves that “modern communications technology and its role in society is still evolving” (Wikipedia, 2019). Employers and employees will continue to struggle with these ethical issues as technology continues to change.

    Wikipedia contributors. (2019, January 2). City of Ontario v. Quon. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:34, February 23, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=City_of_Ontario_v._Quon&oldid=876451364

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