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Washington Prohibits Employer Car Searches - HR Alerts

(WA) Prohibited Employer Car Searches

HR Alerts : Vida HR Knowledge Center

Effective July 23rd, 2023, employers in Washington state may not search an employee’s privately owned vehicles. This is regardless of if the vehicle is on or near the employers’ premises. There are exceptions under this law, and one of the following must apply in order for the employer to be allowed to search an employee’s vehicle:


  • The employer owns or leases the vehicle they wish to search.

  • It is a lawful search by a law enforcement officer.

  • The employee uses the vehicle for work-related activities and the employer needs to inspect it to ensure that it’s suitable for said activities.

  • Any reasonable person would believe that accessing the vehicle is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human life, health, or safety.

  • An employee consents to the search based on probably cause that they possess either the employer’s property, or a controlled substance in violation of federal law and the employer’s written policy on drug use. This specific search can only be conducted by the owner of the business, the owner’s agent, or a licensed private security guard. In addition, the employer cannot make consenting to the search a condition of employment.

  • The search is a security inspection of vehicles that are on state or federal military installations/facilities.

  • The vehicle is on the premises of a state correctional institution.

  • The vehicle is in a specific employer area that is subject to search under state or federal law.

In addition to searches, employers also cannot force employees to keep their personal belongings in their vehicle, as long as those belongings are legal to possess. The full law can be found here. For any questions, consult your Vida HR Business Partner. Get day-to-day updates on employer car searches the Vida HR Knowledge Center (Vida HR Clients Exclusive).

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