The Champion

May 2003 , Page 55 

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Searching government offices and computers

By Barry Tarlow

Read more RICO Report columns.

 

 Government agencies, like private employers, are entitled to ensure that employees comply with workplace rules. See Connick v. Meyers, 461 U.S. 138, 143 (1983) (employee may be terminated for speech that did not touch on matter of public concern that could affect morale of workplace). Private employers are free to search employee work areas without probable cause to suspect wrongdoing, and certainly without first obtaining authorization from a judge. Yet government employers, as state actors, are limited by the Fourth Amendment in their ability to intrude into employees’ protected privacy interests.  

A fairly typical concern in the modern workplace is the misuse of computers by employees who surf the Internet for non-work-related purposes. See Urofsky v. Gilmore, 216 F.3d 401, 404 (4th Cir. 2000)(holding constitutional Virginia statute prohibiting state employees from viewing sexually explicit material on state-owned or leased computers). Sometimes an employee’s misuse o

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