Is it legal for my employer search my backpack and/or vehicle whenever they want?

My employer keeps stressing that they are allowed to search our purses, bags and vehicles whenever they choose for drugs, alcohol and maybe cigarettes in the future if smokers keep leaving butts on the ground and they decide to make our workplace a smoke free facility as consequence. Is this allowed by law or do they need a warrant and/or law enforcement with them in order to search? I understand they can search lockers and desks, so that doesn’t apply to my question.

Asked on August 12, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Your employer must get your consent. However, your consent can be either explicit or implicit. In other words, you can directly agree to such searches or, by your continued employment, your consent can be inferred because if you strenuously objected, you would have quit. That having been said, if the terms of an employment contract or union agreement prohibit such searches, then you would have a claim. Also, such a policy must be administered equally to everyone in the same "class". So for example, if only women are being searched, then that might constitute a form of legally actionable discrimination.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

They can do this if they tell you that they will and you continue to work there after knowledge of this policy. It is legal for employers to search employee vehicles, bags, etc. if the employee consents to the search. Such consent can be inferred or taken from the fact you do not quit/resign but rather continue to work there with knowledge of the policy: if you continue to work at this employer knowing what their rules are, you can be considered to have consented or agreed to those rules.

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