I get questions all the time from employers and employees asking about workplace privacy issues. The employees want absolute privacy, and the employers say, “yeah, right!”

What it comes down to is how carefully the privacy policies in the employment handbook are crafted. An employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy is directly tied to the expectation the employer creates for them.

So, can an employer search my personal belongings at work? The answer is yes, they probably can. If the employer has a policy that states desks and lockers are provided for the convenience of employees but remain the sole property of the employer, they may be inspected along items found inside the lockers or desks before, during, or after an employee’s shift.

In addition, any electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, or pagers that the employer provides come with zero expectation of privacy. That means, if an employee is using a work cell phone to conduct personal business, the employer has the right to search and inspect that cell phone and to use anything they find on that phone against the employee.

I have also had questions about police officers wanting to search an employee’s workstation or locker. The employer has no obligation to let the officers search the workstation, but they have every right to consent to the search so long as the privacy policies make it clear that the items searched are company property.

If you’re an employer and want to manage your employees’ expectations of privacy, carefully craft a privacy policy and disseminate it widely throughout the workplace. If you’re an employee, you really should have no expectation of privacy in your workplace when it comes to your physical items.

For help crafting a privacy policy for your workplace, reach out to us today!


Photo Credit: Pixabay

About author:
Asha Wilkerson is the founder of The Wilkerson Law Office, P.C. Ms. Wilkerson provides skilled advice and counsel to for-profit, non-profit, and faith-based organizations in the areas of business and employment law. Her mission is to preserve the longevity of your business by ensuring that every aspect of your organization is legally sound and operating in compliance with state and federal law.

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