Top Ten: Guns in the Workplace

December 2015

By: Colin A. Walker

Association for Corporate Counsel Legal Resources

1. Federal law does not regulate guns in the workplace.

2. Some state laws limit employers’ ability to restrict an employee’s possession of firearms on the employer’s property.

3. Parking Lot Laws. More than 20 states have enacted “parking lot laws,” which provide that an employee may have a lawfully-possessed firearm in his/her car in a company parking lot, garage, etc. However, many of these laws allow an employer to prohibit an employee from carrying a firearm on his/her person while working, having a firearm in company offices, or having a firearm in a company vehicle.

4. Search for Firearms. Some state laws prohibit employers from searching employees’ cars for firearms or asking employees if they possess firearms in their cars. See Florida Statute, § 790.251. The Florida statute also applies to customers and “invitees.” However, Georgia’s parking lot law allows an employer to search an employee’s vehicle for a firearm if “the situation would lead a reasonable person to believe that accessing the vehicle is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life or safety.” Ga. Code. Ann. § 16-11-135.

5. Discrimination Laws. Some states prohibit employers from refusing to hire or terminating employees because they own guns or have concealed carry permits. See Indiana Code § 34-28-8-6(c); see also Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.251.

6. Posting. Other states require employers to post notices if they are going to prohibit employees from possessing firearms in the workplace. See Tennessee Code § 39-17-1359. Under the Tennessee law, it is crime for an employee to possess a firearm on properly posted property. Some laws specify language which must be included for the notice to be effective.

7. Civil Action for Employees. Some state laws provide employees with a civil action for monetary damages, injunctions, costs and attorneys’ fees against employers who violate workplace gun laws. See ND Cent. Code § 62.1-02-13(5); see also, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.251.

8. Potential Liability for Employers Based on Employee’s Use of Firearms in Workplace. Employers could have liability for crimes committed by employees who have guns at work on theories of negligent hiring, supervision or retention; worker’s compensation; or the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). Generally, employers are not liable for crimes committed by their employees. However, if the employer knew or should have known of an employee’s violent tendencies and that the employee possessed a firearm, it could be liable for negligence for injuries caused by the employee. Worker’s comp laws require an employer to pay for injuries suffered by an employee on the job and could cover gunshot injuries inflicted by another employee. OSHA requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees; failing to prevent an employee from injuring other workers with a firearm could establish a breach of this duty.

9. Employer Immunity. Some state laws provide immunity for employers for crimes committed by employees who possess firearms in compliance with workplace gun laws. See Idaho Code § 5-341. The Georgia law provides immunity “unless such employer commits a criminal act involving the use of a firearm or unless the employer knew that the person using such firearm would commit such criminal act on the employer's premises.” Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-135. Texas law provides that an employer is not required to investigate whether an employee’s possession of a firearm is contrary to state or federal law. See Texas Labor Code § 52.063.

10. State laws do not trump other laws which prohibit possession of firearms, such as those which prohibit felons from possessing firearms. In addition, many workplace gun laws provide exceptions for situations impacting public safety such as possession of a firearm on school property, at correctional facilities, on property owned or leased by an oil or gas refiner or chemical manufacturer, or on other property where state or federal law prohibits firearms. See Texas Labor Code § 52.062; see also ND Cent. Code § 62.1-02-13(5).

This Article is published for general information, not to provide specific legal advice. The application of any matter discussed in this article to anyone's particular situation requires knowledge and analysis of the specific facts involved.

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