Is It Okay to Search a Worker’s Locker for Illegal Drugs? – Ask The Expert


We received an anonymous in-house report that one of our workers is dealing illegal drugs and engaging in trafficking activity in the workplace and might even be keeping them in his locker. We’ve done a preliminary investigation and found credible evidence to confirm it. Are we allowed to search the worker’s locker for drugs’


It depends.


In general, employers have a right to conduct searches of company property for legitimate business purposes, including ensuring health and safety. Drug use and trafficking constitute a safety risk and, based on your description, you would seem to have reasonable cause to suspect that the worker is engaging in it. However, while a locker room is company property, a locker itself is more like personal property and thus subject to privacy rights.

The key question: Does the worker have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his locker’ The answer to that question largely depends on you. It will be difficult for the worker to assert personal privacy rights if you’ve established (and made workers aware of) clear policies banning drug and alcohol use at the site. Ideally, those policies will expressly state that:

  • You have the right to take necessary action to enforce the policy, including carrying out searches of workers’ lockers and personal effects for banned drugs and alcohol; and
  • Workers have no reasonable expectations of privacy in their lockers and other personal effects subject to search.

The other potential fly in the ointment is human rights laws, which come in to play if the worker subject to search has a drug or alcohol dependency or other condition that would be deemed a disability subject to reasonable accommodation. However, reasonable accommodation isn’t an issue where a worker is engaged in trafficking activity. Stated differently, allowing dependent workers to engage in trafficking at the workplace would impose undue hardship on an employer.