Is it lawful to keep someone from leaving a building by not releasing a lock when they want to exit the building and there is no security concern with them leaving?

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Is it lawful to keep someone from leaving a building by not releasing a lock when they want to exit the building and there is no security concern with them leaving?

I work in a state hospital forensic unit. It is a secure facility in which we have custody of our patient/inmates. As such, our main entrance, along with much the rest of our building, is operated remotely with a magnetic lock from a control booth. A supervisor in our building has recently been giving those of us in the control booth a direct order to not allow other employees to leave the building unless it is their designated break time. I feel that this constitutes unlawful detention. Am I correct, and should we comply with this direction?

Asked on December 17, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is legal IF the supervisor makes employees aware that this the policy before preventing them from leaving. If there is notice or announcement of the policy, it becomes a term or condition or work--that is, a requirement that to have the job, that you agree to not leave but for a designated break. Anyone who continues working there after notice has consented to the policy and may be bound by it; therefore, they can lawfully be prevented from leaving. Anyone who does not wish to work under such conditions should seek other employment.


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