The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court had a common-sense message Thursday for workers with cell phones and other gadgets provided by their employers: Use your own cell phone if you’ve got something to text that you don’t want your boss to read.

The justices unanimously upheld a police department’s search of an officer’s personal, sometimes sexually explicit, messages on a government-owned pager, saying the search did not violate his constitutional rights.

The court did not lay down any broad rules about the privacy of workplace electronic communications in a world of rapidly changing technology. But the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy did make clear that governments can check to be sure their employees are following the rules.

The case grew out of a search of the text messages sent by a police sergeant in Ontario, Calif., Jeff Quon, on his department pager. The department discovered many personal messages, including some that were sexually explicit, when it decided to audit text message usage to see whether SWAT team officers were using their pagers too often for personal reasons.

Kennedy noted that in one month alone, Quon sent or received 456 messages during work hours — and nearly 400 were personal.

Quon and three other people who sent him messages sued. They contended the search violated their constitutional rights.

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