In a recent case the French Supreme Court ruled that unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a bomb scare, employers have no legal right to search the contents of their employees’ bags unless they have given their prior consent.
Before even carrying out a search employers must inform employees of their right to object to the search and to have a witness present. The burden is on the employer to prove that it took these steps.
Employers are required to inform employees individually of their right to object and to have a witness present – it would not be sufficient for them merely to include this information in a staff manual or handbook. A failure to provide this information would render a dismissal on grounds of suspected theft unfair, denying employers the ability to rely on any inferences arising from the objections of the employee.
Employees cannot be penalised for objecting to a search. Employers are entitled to notify the Police if they suspect the employee of theft – but apparently employees are under no obligation to wait around for the Police to turn up!