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Handbag/purse search

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  • Handbag/purse search

    Live in Colorado, work in Retail. Part of company policy (privately owned with chain stores throughout country) is that handbags are searched before you leave. This is not uncommon for retail chains to my understanding.

    Some employees who work here and say this is an invasion of privacy. However, I"m with the company, I believe they can do a search especially when it says so in the employee handbook. It's the employees privilege to work there, not their right. Can supervisors check handbags/purses/briefcases before employees leave? And can supervisors actually "touch" the handbags or do employees need to empty them out?

    Who's right? Thanks!

  • #2
    (1) This is a horrible policy and is going to cause ill-will among your employees.

    (2) There's nothing illegal about it as described. However, should an employee ever refuse the search, don't try to force them. Your recourse would be to fire.
    Last edited by grasmicc; 08-09-2005, 09:55 AM.


    • #3
      You are correct that many if not most retail establishments have such a policy. Sadly, theft by a store's own employees has historically accounted for a very significant amount of inventory shrinkage. Same goes for many employers in industry as well.

      Yes, such a policy is lawful if employees are notified in advance that it is a condition of employment. As to the legalities of supervisors or store security personnel actually doing a physical search if the employee refuses to comply, you really should consult a local employment law attorney. Where the legal boundaries are and what constitutes an invasion of privacy is a matter of your State's case law.

      A few dollars spent now on an expert legal opinion could save you many thousands down the road.


      • #4
        "As to the legalities of supervisors or store security personnel actually doing a physical search if the employee refuses to comply, you really should consult a local employment law attorney."

        I agree, talk to an attorney.

        "Where the legal boundaries are and what constitutes an invasion of privacy is a matter of your State's case law."

        If the employee refuses to comply and they search anyway (without probable cause to believe that employee has stolen anything), it isn't invasion of privacy, it is (criminal) assault and battery, not to mention a tort.
        Last edited by grasmicc; 08-09-2005, 10:34 AM.


        • #5
          I wasn't referring to a forced physical search, grasmicc; just the whole issue in general.


          • #6
            Thanks! The policy is in the employee guides and that employeers have the right to search. It is a deterrent and it is explained to the employees when they are hired. I don't consider it (criminal) assault and battery, not to mention a tort at all. I just don't bring anything personal to work or I leave it in my car.

            And it's true, unfortunately, employee theft is an issue. I appreciate all your comments!!!


            • #7
              Just to point out why this issue may be important to others...while I certainly understand the need of a store to deter & prevent theft, respect of privacy is also important. You may not have a problem because you don't bring anything personal with you, but someone else might need to. Medication, or something else. They won't say what inconvienene it is or why it's private because it is, afterall PRIVATE.
              I only want to mention this, not because I'm saying what the employer is doing is right or wrong, but to bear this in mind & don't over look the importance of privacy laws should they be stretched to unreasonable levels.
              The more intrusive the search, the more likely it is an invasion of privacy. For example: if they want to start searching your car, or "pat down" people, or want you to empty your pockets...that may be a violation of privacy.


              • #8
                I'd go a little farther than you zzz and say that what the employer is doing is in fact "Wrong" in a moral sense, and ought to be illegal.

                There are better ways for a store to deter theft, such as giving bonuses to all employees each month that are inversely related to how much theft has occurred.

                There are other methods that are in use. Suffice it to say that very few retail stores search employees on the way out the door. It is demeaning and ineffective.


                • #9
                  I agree, there are many more effective ways to prevent theft which are not so intrusive & demeaning. Required searches "assume" employees are stealing.
                  There are 3 basic reasons why people steal from an employer. I present these reasons NOT as a Justification to stealing, of course, but to understand & therefore prevent theft. They are:

                  1. Financial Need
                  2. Disgruntaled employees (rationalizing that the employer "owes" them because they have been wronged in someway).
                  3. Adventure ("pulling one over" on "the system."

                  Often there is a combination of these reasons. Most people, even if they are "blatant theives" do not see themselves that way. They must rationalize their behavior to protect themselves from seeing themselves as a "bad person." An employer can identify potential theft by bearing these rationalizations in mind. The most common, I believe, is the disgruntaled employee. If you don't treat people right they will not be looking to treat you right. "if you take from me, I will take from you." is the thought, be it concious or subconcious. Treating all employees as if they are thieves & second class citizans, assuming they will steal, is going to breed resentment.
                  Nonetheless, legally the law recognizes "knapsack searches" in THIS situation as legal & nessary.
                  Installing cameras, which employees are aware of but don't know the exact range, would be better. The presence of a camera alone detours theft.


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