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Searching an Employee on Employer Property

If a person has signed as condition of employment that they agree to be searched

upon leaving their employer's property or while on the property and the person

agrees to be searched, a security guard can search the employee. However, if the

employee does not give the security guard permission to search them or anything

they are carrying, then the security guard CANNOT search the employee. A

company policy might also allow the search of personal or company vehicles and/or

random, periodic and/or on-demand searches of bags, boxes, purses, briefcases.

The signed condition of employment might specify whether or not a person themselves

may be searched or just their possessions. In general, it is better not to search

employees themselves as it is a tricky legal area. If you are required to search persons

employed at your location, make sure you receive in-person training on how to perform

searches properly.


If the employee refuses to be searched, the guard can do one or both of the following:


If the guard has reasonable grounds, not just a suspicion, to believe the employee has stolen employer property, they can call the police and let the police handle the matter.


Report the matter to the employer following internal employer policies. The employer can then discipline the employee for refusing to be searched.

Other Search Guidelines on Employer Property

The following are guidelines for performing searches on employer property:


  • If public notices (signs conspicuously posted at public entrances and exits) that inform non-employees that any bags, packages, briefcases and similar objects are subject to search upon entering and exiting the building and the subject gives approval for the search, a guard may perform a search.

  • A guard may perform a search of possessions if the subject gives tacit approval for the search. If the subject in a reasonable amount of time does not verbally object to the search and their behavior would lead a reasonable person to believe that the subject has consented to the search.

  • If a subject withdraws their consent at any time, either verbally or by pulling the bag, purse, etc. away from the guard, the guard must stop the search. The subject maybe withdrawing consent not out of guilt, but out of embarrassment or being offended.

  • Perform the search in as private a manner as possible. Searches are personal and can cause people to become embarrassed.

  • During the course of a consent search on employer property, a security guard has the right to seize the following items:

-Property of the employer that the guard is required to protect and for which the person does not have permission to have. The person may have permission to have the property. Check if they have a Materials Pass or if you can call someone to verify they have a right to the possess the employer property.

-Evidence of a commission of a crime, such as burglary tools and controlled substances.

-Weapons that could be used to injure anyone.

  • If no consent for search has been given, a guard has no legal right to perform a search. Any item found during an illegal search cannot be submitted as evidence in a trial.

  • Any items that are in plain view can be seized as the seizure is not the result of a search.

  • Any searches and seizures must comply with the employer's procedures.

  • If an employer's search and seizure policy does not comply with statues and other laws, a guard should obey the laws, not the procedure. The guard should inform their employer or supervisor that the employer's policies do not adhere to the law.

  • Do not search areas on the property you are not authorized to enter, such as executive offices.

  • You can inspect trash containers, garbage bags and/or storage sheds according to company policy.

  • Always be professional when searching items.

  • Do not search persons. Only search bags, briefcases, purses, etc.


How to Handle a Possible Employee Theft Incident

Employee theft can happen at a retail store or any type of office or manufacturing facility. An employee who is stealing is less likely to be armed and dangerous. Also, it is less likely that the employee cannot be apprehended in the future as they usually will return to work as their job is their source of a paycheck. A security guard will rarely ever have to arrest an employee suspected of theft. The following table gives guidelines for how a guard should handle a possible employee theft incident.

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