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  • New Mexico

    Is it legal for an employer to knowingly search an employees personal belongings, at work, such as her purse? Thanks for any information.
    Last edited by truecolors; 09-06-2008, 11:52 AM.

  • #2
    At what type of facility do you work (not the name of it, though)?
    For example, is it a defense or government facility? Are there signs, notices posted that personal belongings may be subject to search? Did you receive any notices when you started there about belongings being subject to search?
    Why do you think they wanted to search your purse?
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      Was it just your purse/one employee's purse that was searched?

      Were you given a reason for the search?

      Thanks.
      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

      Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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      • #4
        HI, Thanks for responding. The business is a small, family owned furniture store. The employee whose purse was searched is the only sales person they have. The only other employee is a man that works in the warehouse. There are not any notices about personal belongings being subject to a search. My understanding is that the employee left her purse under the counter and it was searched while she was waiting on customers.The owner stated that the employee had been acting strange and that she thought she might be stealing from the business. She didn't find any furniture in her purse but did find a marijuana pipe.
        Last edited by truecolors; 09-07-2008, 08:52 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by truecolors View Post
          HI, Thanks for responding. The business is a small, family owned furniture store. The employee whose purse was searched is the only sales person they have. The only other employee is a man that works in the warehouse. There are not any notices about personal belongings being subject to a search. My understanding is that the employee left her purse under the counter and it was searched while she was waiting on customers.The owner stated that the employee had been acting strange and that she thought she might be stealing from the business. She didn't find any furniture in her purse but did find a marijuana pipe.
          I'll leave it to Betty3, Queen of all Research, to answer the legality of the search.

          But I have to say, she's carrying a MJ pipe in her purse to work? What was she thinking?
          I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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          • #6
            Thank you, Patty.

            As far as I know & per my research, there is no actual law that says yes, the employer can or no, the employer can't. It doesn't fall under the Federal Wiretap Act or the Stored Communications Act. Searches of the employee's personal belongings/space (ie purse, locker) obviously implicate a level of intrusion with no real parallel in electronic space (computer) searches.

            Employers need to reduce their exposure to privacy-based claims arising out of "physical searches" by taking steps similar to those in the electronic context. Employers, for example, should obtain their employees' express consent to search areas which otherwise might be off limits.
            One court case: American Postal Workers Union v. United States Postal Services. In that case, postal employees were required to sign waivers stating that their lockers were subject to random inspection by authorized postal authorities. When the Postal Inspection Service learned of possible illicit drug traffic and concealed weapons in the postal facility, the Service conducted an unannounced search of all employee lockers. Under these circumstances, the court found that the search was legal because the employees had no reasonable expectation of privacy.
            *Employers relying upon employee consent, however, must confine the search to the scope of the consent and should avoid obtaining consent in an atmosphere of coercion.*
            There was one court case involving Wal Mart where the court relied on evidence that the oral consent was much narrower than the scope of the actual search and that the written consent resulted from coercion. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Lee affirmed a $1.65 million jury verdict against Wal-Mart arising out of its search of an employee's home for allegedly stolen merchandise.

            An employer who has a legitimate business reason for a search typically will prevail if later sued for invasion of privacy. A supervisor's search of an employee's car was upheld where there was evidence that the employee might have been drinking alcohol on company premises in violation of published work rules. Searches without a valid, business justification, by contrast, expose the employer to liability. The search of employees' hotel rooms was found to be in violation of the employees' right to privacy where no business was transacted in the rooms nor was the public invited to the rooms for such a purpose.

            I found a couple of references where it said if you believe your privacy was violated in the workplace, contact an attorney in YOUR state for an opinion.
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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            • #7
              Well deserved, Betty3.

              Reason I asked about what type of business is that government sites or DoD contractors, for example, can have MUCH looser rules about searches of personal property. I worked for a DoD contractor a few years ago and it was posted that searches of personal property could be made at any time.
              I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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              • #8
                I agree with the above - I'm talking about the Well deserved, Betty3. (just kidding)

                I agree with your statement about government sites/DoD contractors - that seems to be the case.
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                Comment

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