The legality of searching workplace lockers

Written by meredithbeach
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The legality of searching workplace lockers
Employees should have a low expectation of privacy in employer-provided lockers. (locker image by Adkok from

Although the fourth amendment to the constitution provides individuals with reasonable expectation of privacy from government interference, this protection doesn't extend to private employers. Courts will look at a variety of factors when examining the legality of employee locker searches.

Court Analysis

When courts evaluate whether an employer search is valid, they'll consider the employer's justification in conducting the search and whether the employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy. If the employer has work-related reasons for searching an employee's locker or work space, the court will likely consider the search valid.

Reasonable Expectation

If the employer's policies encourage employees to have a certain level of privacy in their storage units, then the court may find that the employee's expectation of privacy outweighs the employer's justification for the search. This level of privacy is generally extended to rest rooms or dressing areas.


A search of a computer or e-mail is considered reasonable since these are employer-provided resources and this thinking may extend to employer-provided lockers. Courts are less likely to find searches of employees' bags, purses or briefcases permissible.

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