Office Searches by Private Employers

privacy in the workplace

In New Jersey, private employers have certain rights to search employees and their work spaces, however, there are limitations and requirements that must be generally followed to ensure that the searches are carried out lawfully.

The NJ Supreme Court has not directly published a case that has addressed the extent to which private employers may search the offices and property of its employees, so here are some key points regarding employer searches in New Jersey:

  1. Reasonable expectation of privacy test: Employees generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their personal property and belongings brought into the workplace and in places like lockers or personal desks. Employers cannot generally conduct searches without a legitimate reason or suspicion.
  2. Consent: Employers can conduct searches if the employee gives their consent voluntarily. It is important that the consent is freely given and not coerced.
  3. Workplace policies: Employers may establish policies regarding searches and inform employees of these policies. If an employee violates the policies, the employer may search their belongings or workspace. However, it is still important for searches to be reasonable and not overly intrusive.
  4. Company property: Employers have the right to search company-owned property, such as company vehicles or computers, without the employee’s consent or a warrant. This is because employees typically do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in company property.
    The employee’s expectation of privacy must be assessed in the context of the employment relationship. The workplace, including a private office, is not generally considered exempt from entry by supervisors, other employees, and personal invitees…. Given the great variety of work environments in both the private and public sector, the question whether an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
  5. Investigations: Employers have the right to conduct searches as part of investigations into suspected misconduct or illegal activities. However, these searches should be conducted in a reasonable and neutral manner.
  6. Legal and illegal items: If an employer discovers illegal items during a search, they have an obligation to report it to the appropriate authorities.

If you are a private employer or employee with questions about office searches and you would like to speak to us personally, call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail him at He or a member of the office will be happy to speak and meet with you to address your matter.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.