Answering your question turned out to be a fascinating experience.
This sort of incident is astonishingly (and distressingly) common.
While some of these episodes *may* at first seem amusing to some, it
soon becomes clear that all the affected employees suffered intense
Also, as you're about to learn, legal issues related to these matters
can be rather convoluted.
Nearly all the managers who were put on trial for these searches -- in
the few cases I found about court proceedings concerning these issues
-- were acquitted. In more recent cases, offers of monetary
settlements from the parent companies to their mortified (in some
cases, traumatized) employees seem to be becoming the norm.
I have found cases from 1992 -- the present, related to retail store
and restaurant employee strip searches. I have divided my findings
into three separate sections.
STRIP-SEARCH INCIDENTS & SUBSEQUENT LEGAL ACTIONS:
From a Feb. 9, 2004 Fox7News (Rapid City, SD) report filed by Julie Oberlander:
"A former Rapid City Hardees manager, who is accused of detaining a
female employee for nearly three hours and strip searching her, went
on trial Monday in Seventh Circuit Court.
"Allan Mathis is charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count
of rape. . . . The alleged victim, who was 19 at the time, testified
that she had received a phone call from someone identifying himself as
a police officer.
"The caller accused her of stealing a coin-purse from a customer. She
said she was told to get a manager, Mathis, and then Mathis spoke to
"She told the jury that Mathis closed his office door and made her
strip down until she was naked.
"The defense claims Mathis and his accuser are both victims of a
horrible hoax. Mathis' attorney says the two believed they were
complying with a policeman's orders.
Mathis was acquitted by the jury on Feb 13, 2004:
See this AP (Associated Press) report from the Oct. 20, 2000, edition
of the Columbus (OH) Dispatch: "Manager acquitted in strip-search
Scott Winsor a "McDonald's restaurant manager who admitted to
strip-searching two employees was acquitted yesterday on charges of
unlawful restraint and sexual imposition."
Winsor "thought he was cooperating with a police investigation of
stolen money when he strip- searched [the women].
"The women testified that they also thought the man giving directions
to Winsor over the phone was a detective. Authorities said the call to
the restaurant was not from a police detective. The person posing as a
law-enforcement official has not been found.
"The parents of the women have filed a civil suit against McDonald's
and Winsor for sexual harassment, assault and battery and false
So, Winsor was acquitted in criminal court. I couldn't find anything
related to the civil suit the victims' parents had threatened to file.
The May 2, 2002, edition of the Odessa [TX] American has this article,
"EEOC says strip search was illegal: A Burger King manager claims he
received a phone call ordering him to search a female employee for a
missing coin purse," written by Brian Rogers:
"Attorneys for a man who strip-searched a female co-worker at an
Odessa fast-food restaurant say the woman submitted to the search [on
July 15, 2001] as part of a scam, but a federal agency says the woman
? 'The EEOC has determined just cause for her allegations that she was
sexually harassed, and she was a victim of discrimination,' said her
attorney . . . .
"The manager who performed the search, Tim Wimberly, 29, claimed he
performed the search on the instructions of a man who called the
restaurant and identified himself as an Odessa police officer.
"Ramirez [the victim] filed a report with police July 16, and Wimberly
filed a charge of ?impersonating a public servant,? 20 minutes later
the same day. In his report, Wimberly said the unknown caller ordered
him to search the woman for the coin purse.
"Wimberly was arrested Aug. 31 on a class A misdemeanor charge of
unlawful restraint. Wimberly turned himself in at the Ector County Law
Enforcement Center and was released after posting $1,000 bond.
Wimberly?s attorney, Michael McLeaish, said Wimberly was a victim of
Burger King settled this case in 2003. See this AP report in the
Dallas News, published August 12, 2003:
"Ron-Bar, Inc. [parent company of Burger King] will pay Blanca Ramirez
$35,500 to settle the civil suit, in which the woman claimed she was
harassed after being forced by her manager to strip in a restaurant
The EEOC applauded that settlement; however, "McLeaish [manager
Wimberly's attorney] said he believes the call to Wimberly was a hoax,
and that he believes Ramirez and the man on the telephone designed the
scheme for the purpose of suing Burger King."
INCIDENTS (SUBSEQUENT LEGAL ACTIONS -- IF ANY -- UNKNOWN):
I couldn't find any legal actions regarding the following batch of
cases. It is quite *possible* that charges in these cases were dropped
by the affected employees if their employers offered out-of-court
settlements. (These types of settlements are generally hush-hush and,
unless one of the parties is very high-profile, details usually aren't
leaked to the press. In smaller towns where there may not be an
aggressive news outlet, it can be especially difficult to divine
details pertaining to a possible settlement.)
October 30, 2003 AP story reprinted by Salt Lake City's ABC affiliate:
"Earlier this month, a caller convinced a shift supervisor at an
Applebee's Restaurant that he was a police officer and that employees
were stealing from customers.
"The caller ordered the supervisor to strip search one of the female
employees to look for the stolen cash. The employee was completely
nude before the supervisor realized it was a prank.
"Investigators say three restaurants took the same type of call in one
day but two of them realized it was a prank.
"Police say the caller knew the area, and the district manager's name.
He also threatened jail time if the strip search wasn't carried out.
They say the call was collect, and came from someone in Florida."
Also on Oct. 30, 2003, the Salt Lake City Tribune printed this
announcement from local authorities:
"Salt Lake County authorities on Wednesday warned restaurant workers
about a nationwide telephone scam after a female employee at an area
Applebee's was forced to undergo a strip search.
"Utah is only the most recent state reporting such an incident. The
calls are believed to originate in Florida, and the suspect -- who
calls collect from a pay phone -- is almost always male . . . ."
I can't find any updates re: charges being filed against the
supervisor at Applebee's. My *impression* is that Salt Lake officials
are mainly concerned with identifying the crank phone caller, rather
than filing charges against restaurant managers. It is possible a
civil action is being contemplated in this case, but I can't find any
references to anything like that.
From the site "Anna's Newsclippings" (January 2002):
17 January 2002
"In slightly older news, we hear that the manager of a Billings,
Montana, business received a telephone call on Boxing Day [December
26th] from a man who said he was a police detective looking for a
stolen purse supposedly stolen by a female employee.
"According to police detective Sergeant Ross Adams, the caller asked
the manager of the business, which police did not identify, to conduct
a strip search of two employees who matched a given description. The
manager complied, not wanting police to come and make arrests.
Employees became suspicious afterward and called police to report the
"Did The Manager Tell A Whopper?" from About.com's "Crime/Punishment":
has an October 1999 reprint of an article written by Jack Sullivan, of
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
"Prosecutors filed a disorderly conduct charge Thursday against a
Burger King manager who's accused of
strip-searching a 17-year-old female employee in January. . . .
"Krein no longer works for Burger King in Fargo . . . . Assistant Cass
County State's Attorney Adam Hamm,
who filed charges, said he would not discuss the case until after
Krein appears in court."
An IndyNewsChannel report from October 15, 2002 (You also see video clip):
"Teen Sues Burger King Over Alleged Strip Search: Phone Prank Reportedly
Leads To Strip Search":
"PENDLETON, Ind. -- A phone prank reportedly had serious consequences
for an Indiana teenager. The 15-year-old girl is suing the Pendleton
Burger King where she worked after she was allegedly strip searched at
the request of a
prank phone caller . . . .
"According to the teen, a man claiming to be a police officer called
the Burger King and said he was conducting an investigation into a
stolen change purse. The caller reportedly instructed the store
manager to strip search the girl, who was working the cash register.
"The manager allegedly complied and took the teen to a back room and
ordered her to take her clothes off. . . . According to the police
report, the manager followed the instructions of the prank caller,
even calling a male employee to witness the strip search . . . . The
lawsuit claimed the manager should have realized it was a prank,
especially after the prank caller began to ask if the teen had any tan
lines, tattoos or cleavage."
I could not find any follow-ups on this case, either.
A Winn-Dixie Supermarket manager received a call from a "police
officer" and agreed to the "officer's" demands that he strip search an
employee. See this AP report from the "St. Petersburg Times," July 15,
"PANAMA CITY, Fla. - A supervisor at a supermarket was arrested after
an employee said her boss strip-searched her, claiming to be following
orders from a police officer on the phone.
"... assistant manager at a Winn-Dixie store, was arrested Saturday on
charges of false imprisonment and lewd and lascivious behavior. He was
released on $10,000 bail.
"Authorities have received complaints about similar calls, said police
Lt. Claude Arnold. He said investigators in North Dakota told Panama
City police last week that similar calls had been traced to pay phones
in Panama City.
"Lee Sims, a regional security director for Winn-Dixie in Montgomery,
Ala . . . said a number of such prank calls have been made to
Winn-Dixie and other groceries. Sims said he didn't know of any other
Winn-Dixie employees arrested."
STRIP SEARCHES CONDUCTED BY SENOR EMPLOYEES (NO PRANK PHONE CALLERS INVOLVED):
On March 19, 2003, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia (also see video clip):
"The assistant manager of a [Dover] Delaware fast food restaurant
[Burger King] faces charges of sexual extortion, after he
strip-searched a female employee" . . . . He " allegedly asked the
18-year-old employee to disrobe because he was investigating the theft
of a purse. He allegedly coerced her by saying he was talking to
police on the phone."
I couldn't find any updates on this story at
http://www.phillynews.com, so it seem this case hasn't yet come to
trial. (It's also *possible* the defendant pled guilty and no trial
ever took place.)
The Sept. 8, 2001. edition of the Gaston Gazette [Gastonia, NC] has
the story "Alleged strip search at Taco Bell leads to charges, by
"BELMONT ? Two Taco Bell employees [one male, one female] face
kidnapping charges after two female teen-age workers accused them of
having them strip for a search at the Belmont restaurant." Both were
in the Gaston County Jail at the time the article was published. I
can't find any more information on this case -- not even in the
"Workplace Searches Prompt Privacy Invasion Claims," by business news
commentator William S. Hubbartt, in his Feb. 2000 column "Management
Memo" (reprinted from the Kane County [Ill.] Chronicle) :
"A customer had complained to store management that the employee had
taken $20.00 which the customer had left on the counter. To satisfy
the customer's complaint, the employee was directed to strip to her
underwear in the store's public rest room as the customer and a female
assistant manager watched. As a result of this humiliating incident,
the employee sued the store for privacy invasion. The court found that
the employer's action was an outrageous infringement of personal
Unfortunately, Hubbartt didn't provide details regarding that specific
case, but his essay is a good primer employee searches:
"So, how far can an employer go when conducting workplace searches?
And, what privacy rights do employees have on the job?
"The answer to these questions actually varies from state to state.
"When management has a justifiable reason for a search, and employees
understand the need for such action, and the employer conducts the
search in a manner that respects employee dignity, there is a less
likelihood for a privacy invasion claim."
This article was culled from Hubbartt's book "The New Battle Over
Workplace Privacy," which you can find at Amazon.com:
Toothman Vs. Hardees, a 1999 appellate case ("Appeal from the Circuit
Court of Saline County; 5th District) regarding a 1992 case in which
two supervisors at the Harrisburg [Ill.] Hardees strip searched
employees. The plaintiffs, the employees who'd been strip searched,
had won in court and won again when the defendant, Hardees, appealed
The convolutions in this case may explain why I couldn't find more
court cases pertaining to retail employees who'd been subjected to
"The action arises out of a strip search of plaintiffs, employees of
the Harrisburg Hardee's, conducted by Judy and Kim, managers of the
Harrisburg Hardee's. The issues we decide are (1) whether plaintiffs'
claims of false imprisonment, assault, and battery are barred as to
Hardee's by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation
Act (the Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)), (2) whether the
trial court erred when it instructed the jury regarding the elements
of false imprisonment, assault, and battery, (3) whether the jury's
awards of compensatory damages were against the manifest weight of the
evidence, (4) whether the trial court erred by allowing the jury to
consider the issue of punitive damages as to Hardee's, and (5) whether
the amount of punitive damages was excessive as to any of the
defendants. We affirm. . . .
"The jury returned verdicts in favor of plaintiffs and awarded each of
them $25,000 in compensatory damages against all defendants, $200,000
in punitive damages against Hardee's, $375 in punitive damages against
Judy, and $50 in
punitive damages against Kim. The trial court entered judgments on the
verdicts and denied defendants' posttrial motions. This appeal
followed. . .
"The Illinois Supreme Court has determined that the only way an
injured employee can sue for damages against his or her employer,
other than by filing for compensation provided under the Act, is to
allege one of the following: (1) the injury was not accidental, (2)
the injury did not arise from his or her employment, (3) the injury
was not received during the
course of employment, or (4) the injury is not compensable under the Act.
"Hardee's argues that plaintiffs failed to show that their injuries
fall under any of the above exceptions. Plaintiffs argue that we
should affirm the trial court on its finding of noncompensability,
because they did not seek or require any medical care after the
incident nor did they miss any work. While we agree with the trial
court's finding that, as a matter of
law, plaintiffs' injuries are not compensable under the Act, we first
discuss what we determine to be a stronger basis for our holding, that
plaintiffs' injuries are not accidental under the Act.
"Thus, the decision in Meerbrey requires factual findings as to
whether the employee's injuries were unexpected or unforeseeable from
the injured employee's point of view and, if so, whether the
intentional act was
committed by the employer personally or by the alter ego of the
employer/corporation. . . .
"In the case at bar, each plaintiff testified that she expected Judy
to conduct a strip search after the money was found missing. There was
evidence that the search was not unexpected or unforeseeable from
plaintiffs' point of view. . .
"We find that under the circumstances presented herein, Judy's manager
status was the same as alter ego status for the Harrisburg Hardee's
store. Since 'the paramount purpose behind the intentional tort
exception is to prevent persons who commit intentional torts from
using the compensation law as a shield against liability' (Fredericks
v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 255 Ill. App. 3d 1029, 1033 (1994)),
we ought not allow that protection to be used as a cloak to shield
Hardee's. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's denial of Hardee's
motion for a directed verdict and its finding that plaintiffs are
permitted to sue Hardee's at common law."
The appellate court also affirmed the trial court's decision that the
plaintiffs were NOT eligible for compensation.
The Illinois law firm of Meckler Bulger & Tilson:
notes that "Courts have consistently held that strip searches of
employees cannot be conducted unless there is reasonable suspicion.
You can click on that "," which will bring up:
which is an extensive listing of cases involving strip searches, but
those links won't lead you to general Web resources detailing those
CASE INVOLVING WENDY'S:
The only case I could find concerning Wendy's is this one, in which
actual, bona fide police officers conducted the search. The ultimate
ruling from this case may be of interest to you.
From June 2003 issue of HR: Employment Law Resources for HR Managers:
"Davida Crutcher was a 16-year-old employee of a Wendy's restaurant in
Huntsville [AL]. She worked part-time and, on one fateful day, had
served as a cashier in the drive-through lane. As happens in fast-food
restaurants, the drive-through cash register came up $50 short that
day. The assistant manager who discovered the shortage tried to locate
the money and investigated to see if she could find out what had
happened (as the company's policies required). When she couldn't find
the cash, she called the police. And then the plot thickened.
"When the police arrived, the assistant manager told them that she
thought $50 was missing and that only three employees (including
herself and Crutcher) had access to the money. The police told her
that they could search the employees only with their consent. One
employee clearly didn't consent, she wasn't searched, and nothing bad
happened to her for refusing
"The police asked Crutcher if she would go to the office for a search,
and she followed them. She and the assistant manager were searched . .
. . The $50 was never found.
Crutcher sued the Wendy's franchisee for false imprisonment, slander,
and invasion of privacy. The trial court dismissed her claims, and the
state supreme court said the lower court made the right decision."
The Winter 2001 issue of the Risk Management Newsletter printed a press
release from Pizza Hut, which warned its franchises about phone callers
claiming to be police officers who then order managers to conduct strip
Pizza Hut's announcement states, in large print, "Do Not Allow Any Employee
to Strip Search Another Employee Under Any Circumstances . . .
"Throughout the conversation, the caller will speak confidently and
professionally. In addition, the caller appears to have a great deal of
knowledge about the store, including the names of the management staff and the
layout of the store and backroom.
First, it maywell be a true scam and the supervisor and employeeare
both victimized by the caller.well be a true scam and the supervisor
and employeeare both victimized by the caller. Second, the scam may be
a set-up by the employee who is stripsearched and who hopes to receive
a pay-off via a settlement. legal claim. Third, the scam might be an
'inside job', where the supervisor is in cahoots with the caller to
effectuate a strip search. . . . "
"McStrip Search" a round-up of several fast-food employee strip search
cases at About.com's "Crime/Punishment" site, which is maintained by
"fake AND cop AND 'strip search' "
prank AND cop AND 'strip search' "
"Applebee's AND supervisor AND arrested AND strip AND 'Salt Lake' "
"manager AND strip-searched AND charges"
"McDonald's sued strip search"
"manager AND convicted AND strip searching AND employee"
"Hardees AND Mathis"
"Pendleton Indiana Burger King strip search"
"Winn-Dixie strip search trial"
Winn-Dixie AND "strip search" AND trial OR charges"
" 'Wendy's AND 'strip search' AND trial OR charges"
"Wendy's AND 'strip search' "
"manager AND store AND strip search AND employee"
"Toothman AND Hardees AND Illinois"
"compensation AND employees AND 'strip search' "
"settlement AND employee AND "strip search"
" 'strip search' " AND " 'Workers Compensation Act' "
" 'strip search' AND 'employment law' "
"Wimberly AND Ramirez AND 'Burger King' "
"EEOC AND 'strip search' "
"strip searches managers lawsuits"
"retail AND employees AND 'strip search' AND law"
Here's some updates on the MA Wendy's incidents you cited in your question:
From The Boston Channel, Feb. 25, 2004:
"The supervisors have been suspended with pay pending an investigation."
From The Boston Channel, Feb. 28, 2004:
"ABINGTON, Mass. -- One day after a sexual harassment complaint was
filed, the attorney for one of the victims in a strip-search scam said
he wants to settle the matter quickly. . . . spokesman for Wendy's
said Friday that in the context of the cruel hoax, the company
believes the employees and the managers are the victims, and Wendy's
welcomes any opportunity to discuss a settlement offer. So far, no
arrests have been made."
I hope my research is of help to you. Please post a "Request For
Clarification" if you need help navigating any of the above links, or
if you need me to clarify any of the information I've given you.