Legal Question in Employment Law in Tennessee

Illegal Search of Personal Property

I'm an RN working in a community ER. Someone found a half used vial of demerol on the floor in the employees lounge next to where I always place my bag. The person ''thought'' it may have fallen out of my bag. My bag was zipped closed at the time. Security was notified and at the request of the hospital nursing supervisor, my bag was searched. I had no knowledge nor was I given the opportunity to consent to the search. A 1 mg vial of ativan was found in my bag. This was half a dose I forgot to waste after giving it to a patient that just got dumped into the bag along with everything else I empty out of my pockets at the end of the day. I was asked to take a urine drug test. I consented and gave a urine sample. I am suspended from my job pending results of the drug test and investigation. The drug test will come back ''clean'', I don't do drugs. My questions are: Did the hospital have the right to suspect me of drug abuse simply because the vial was found near my bag? Did they have the right to search my bag without my consent? Should there have been a law officer called instead of just the hospital security agents? I am an employee in good standing of 2 1/2 yrs. I've never been written up for anything to do with drugs before!

Asked on 11/23/04, 12:48 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Dr. Michael A. S. Guth Tennessee Attorney at Law Assists Pro Se (without a lawyer) Parties

Re: Illegal Search of Personal Property

Is your employer a private or public hospital. The constitutional right against unlawful searches applies to government actors. If you have a public employer, then arguably your rights were violated.

You will need statements from other nurses that when they have half a vile of drug leftover, they sometimes put it in their pockets and wind up taking the drug home. That sounds kind of suspicious.

If you have a private employer, you will probably find that they reserve the right to check employees for illegal drug use and investigate allegations of drug consumption or drug waste.

If you are upset with your treatment, one of your most effective responses would be to vote with your feet and find a new employer.

Michael A. S. Guth

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Answered on 11/23/04, 3:50 pm

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