Can we search an employee’s car if we think she’s using drugs at work? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Can we search an employee’s car if we think she’s using drugs at work?

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Q. We suspect an employee has been getting high at work. Over the past two weeks, co-workers have reported that the employee’s pupils were dilated and her speech was slurred. She stares out the window for extended periods of time, she fell while walking down the hall, her appearance is disheveled, and she takes multiple “rest breaks” to go to her car throughout the day. We want to search the employee’s car, but she refuses to let us. Can we search her car anyway?

A. Whether the search would be considered reasonable enough to withstand legal scrutiny depends on whether the employer’s need to supervise and operate its business efficiently outweighs the employee’s legitimate expectation of privacy in her vehicle.

The employee’s expectation of privacy in her vehicle may be reduced if she has been given notice of the potential for vehicle searches, the search is based on reasonable suspicion of job-related misconduct, and the search is limited in scope.

Before conducting the search, conduct an investigation into the credibility of your sources. Personally observe the employee and interview her. The more credible information you have of workplace misconduct, the more likely a search related to that misconduct would be upheld.
If your company has a drug-testing policy, you may also opt to send the employee for a drug test. 

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