Companies that operate in the private sector are expected to establish non-coercive search programs that are aimed at minimizing property losses at the hands of employees. The law prevents employers from searching their employees without a properly documented policy because workers have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution dictates the privacy rights of employees that should not be violated by their employers (Kilburn, 1988). However, the privacy rights of employees as far as workplace searches are concerned depend on whether an organization is a private or a public entity (Mautner, Anderson and Haushild, 2002). The purpose of this project is to analyze the legal challenges for private security as far as the process of conducting employee searches is concerned. This analysis will be made based on the court ruling in Chenkin v. BELLEVUE HOSP. CTR., NYC, ETC., 479 F. Supp. 207 (S.D.N.Y. 1979).
A public employee is more protected by Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution than a private worker. For this reason, a private company may violate the privacy rights of its employee but still fail to face lawsuit. Irrespective of the type of the company, employers are expected to establish a clear policy defining how it should conduct general searches on employee property. The policy must meet the legal requirements of the nation in order to prevent loss of the company’s property in case an employee makes a claim (Secunda, 2017).
In Chenkin v. BELLEVUE HOSP. CTR., NYC, ETC., 479 F. Supp. 207 (S.D.N.Y. 1979), the court seeks to challenge whether the regulation issued by a large healthcare organization in order to minimize property loss at the hands of employees is legitimate. In the case, Bellevue Hospital Center, has a clearly documented policy that it uses to reduce pilferage of its property such as towels, sheets, and medical equipment. In the policy, the hospital states that all packages, bags, and large parcels carried by employees must be inspected at random before they leave the facility (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.). Chenkin, an assistant chemist at Bellevue Health Center has however denied the security officers from inspecting his bag on two different occasions. As a result, the hospital has decided to take a disciplinary action against the assistant chemist by denying him wages for a week. The chemist argues that the pilferage control-package is unconstitutional and the hospital should give him back the lost wages. In the case, the judge has made a ruling that the plaintiff should not be reimbursed the one week’s lost wages because he is guilty of insubordination (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
The issues related to the search program that the court needed to resolve is whether the inspections outlined in the hospital’s policy violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Both the chemist and Bellevue Hospital Center agree that the matter at hand requires a court judgement and the specific issue to be determined is the legality of the package control system. In order to understand the role of the court in this case, it is important to analyze the main points in the search procedure that are the main source of disagreement between the plaintiff and Bellevue Hospital Center (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
Bellevue developed the pilferage package control system to help it minimize the rising cases of loss of hospital property at the hands of employees. A memorandum explaining the policy requirements was posted on all routes used by employees to access various departments in the hospital. The package control system had two features whereby employees could either get into the facility with their bags which must be searched when they leave, or leave their luggage at one of three different locations and take them when they leave the facility without being searched (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
All employees carrying their bags and other huge luggage were required to permit security officers to inspect them before leaving the facility. At two designated exists, security guards were placed to check employees’ bags at random to find out whether they contain any hospital property. The main aim of random selection was to avoid discrimination and prevent certain employees from feeling that they are being targeted (Mautner, Anderson and Haushild, 2002). Due to the huge employee population, not all employees carrying bags were stopped for inspection. The security guards conducting the inspection were prohibited from confiscating personal papers and from performing contact searches especially on women.
Any employee who does not want his or her bag to be searched was free to use the second option of leaving his or her bag at the facility entrance and picking them in the evening when they leave. With this package control system in place, Bellevue Hospital Center has confirmed that pilferage of hospital property has been reduced. The system has assisted the hospital to detect theft of hospital property and even prevented potential thieves from stealing those properties. Just about twelve weeks after the policy was implemented, Chenkin, an assistant chemist at Bellevue, denied the security guards an opportunity to inspect his bag on two occasions. This made the hospital to hold his wages for a total of one week. While the hospital feels that the pilferage package control system is fair and reasonable, the plaintiff claims that it is unconstitutional and does not reduce pilferage of hospital property. The two parties therefore agree that the court needs to resolve the constitutionality of the package control system particularly by establishing whether it meets the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Chenkin and Bellevue advanced opposing positions to the court regarding Chenkin’s claim that the hospital’s package control system was unconstitutional. As far as Chenkin is concerned, Bellevue’s package control system violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He argues that the policy allows security guards to intrude unreasonably to the privacy of employees, and that it does not achieve any noticeable reduction in pilferage of hospital property. On the other hand, Bellevue Hospital Center maintains that workers do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy on luggage that they bring to the hospital. So, when all matters are put into consideration, its policy is reasonable, and that the security guards did not require Chenkin’s consent before inspecting his package. Based on Chenkin’s position, he feels that he should be reimbursed the one week lost wages (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
When this matter was presented before the court, the judge made a ruling in favor of Bellevue Medical Center. According to the judge, the package control system used by Bellevue Hospital Center is a fair and reasonable strategy of addressing the problem of pilferage of hospital property. In his ruling, the judge holds that the suspension of the plaintiff’s wages for one week should be maintained, and that the hospital should not make any reimbursements whatsoever (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
The court rejected Chenkin’s claims based on the features of the search procedure instituted by Bellevue Hospital Center. Bellevue Hospital Center communicated its policy package control policy to all employees through a memorandum which was posted in all corridors. In addition, the policy had two features that allow employees to freely make a choice on whether their packages should be inspected or not. Suppose Chenkin did not want the security guards to inspect his package, he could have left it in one of the three locations. The fact that he entered the facility with his bag compels him to give the security guards an opportunity to inspect it. Chenkin was vividly aware of the two options which he deliberately ignored. The court maintained that Chenkin deserves the penalty offered because he intentionally violated the hospital’s regulation, more than twelve weeks after its implementation, and he is therefore guilty of insubordination.
As a practical matter, this court decision greatly impacts security operations of companies as far as employee searches are concerned. First, based on the court’s decision, both private and public organizations now understand the importance of establishing a clearly written policy stating how employee searches should be conducted. According to Lemons (2004), in case an employee presents a claim, the first thing that the court looks for is whether workers were informed of the searches and whether employees are limited of their privacy expectations. Second, the court ruling guided both private and public organizations to abide by state privacy requirements when formulating employee search policy. For instance, in Chenkin v. BELLEVUE HOSP. CTR., NYC, ETC., 479 F. Supp. 207 (S.D.N.Y. 1979), Bellevue Hospital Center complied with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Chenkin v. Bellevue Hosp. Ctr.).
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