March 2, 2024
Factory workers are telling state lawmakers that their vehicles are being 'unjustly' searched by their employers.

Factory workers are telling state lawmakers that their vehicles are being ‘unjustly’ searched by their employers and are asking for a new bill to prevent this.
Under Washington state law, employees have some privacy protections, but the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said there are no statutes or rules regarding workplace searches, including an employee’s vehicle parked on an employer’s property.
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HB 1257, introduced last legislative session, would prohibit employers from searching privately owned vehicles and prevent employers from requiring employees to waive their privacy rights to not be searched as a condition of employment.
Under the bill, employees are permitted to file complaints with the L&I, and the department can impose civil penalties for violations.
There are several exceptions to this law against an employer searching vehicles, including if the vehicle is owned or leased by the employer, any legal search done by law enforcement, or to prevent an immediate threat to human life, health, or safety.
Russ Ipok represents pulp mill workers and says this law is essential as workers are getting reprimanded or even fired after refusing an employer’s request to search their vehicle.
“People are getting written up, people are getting terminated,” Ipok said. “We had a random search of 11 vehicles on the work site. 10 out of the 11 workers said, ‘yeah, alright,’ but one guy stood up and said, ‘no, you have no right to search my vehicle.’ He was terminated.”
Tammy Fellen from labor and industries did bring up one problem with the legislation, mainly that while it does make it illegal to search a private car, there is not enough to dissuade employers from firing employees as retaliation.
“There doesn’t appear to be any retaliation protections written into the bill, which from the testimony seems to be important,” Fellen said.
No employers testified against the bill.
Matt Markovich contributed to this report