It’s no secret: Security is getting tighter across the United States and
beyond, and workplaces are no exception. How can you keep your workplace
secure while still providing access to visitors?
Our partners at
Support Center offered some guidance recently to a company
struggling with this dilemma.
We’ve been checking the bags of employees and visitors when they leave
the warehouse. Is this allowed?
Answer from Eric, HR Pro:
Yes, you can check the bags and possessions leaving your premises.
However, this should be done only if you have properly notified
employees and visitors in advance of this practice.
By giving advance notice, you set an expectation of privacy on your
premises and can search with a reduced chance of dispute. Employees
are not forced to work for you. Visitors are not forced to enter your
building. So the decision to be there – knowing a search may be involved
– rests with them.
If you have an employee handbook, you can easily notify employees by
having it include a policy addressing inspections and searches. You may
want to specify exactly what belongings you might search, e.g. purses,
back packs, briefcases, so employees know exactly what to expect.
Since visitors do not acknowledge a handbook, they should receive
notice of the search policy by means of a poster or verbal
You’ll want to ensure that you are carrying out your searches in a way
that is clearly non-discriminatory. For instance, if you are executing
searches to prevent theft generally (as opposed to a specific instance
where you have reasonable suspicion), then the searches should be done
with all employees and visitors to prevent any potential discrimination
Be aware that you should never touch someone when executing a
search, nor should you demand that an employee or visitor submit to
the search in order to be allowed to leave. The former is a clear
invasion of privacy, while the latter could lead to a claim of false
imprisonment. Many employers find that a visual inspection of bags while
they’re held open by the employees is sufficient to prevent theft.
In sum, your practice of searching bags of employees and visitors is
fine as long as you’ve notified them of your policy and you conduct
searches in a non-discriminatory way.
has extensive experience in HR, management, and training. He has held
several senior HR positions, including as the HR & Operations Manager
for an award-winning interactive marketing agency and as HR Director for
a national law firm. Eric graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in
Economics from the University of Oregon with a minor in Business
Administration. Eric is also active in the community, volunteering with
the regional Human Resources Management Association Advocacy Team and
with youth training programs.