Bloomberg Law for HR Professionals is a complete, one-stop resource, continuously updated, providing HR professionals with fast answers to a wide range of domestic and international human resources...
While mass shootings, many in workplaces, have raised safety concerns and a heated gun control debate, some states’ laws protect the rights of gun-carrying employees.
Some employers have been sued when there are shooting casualties on their property. In a mixed ruling March 5, Georgia’s Supreme Court held in Lucas v. Beckman Coulter, Inc. that the state’s “Bring Your Guns to Work” law extends immunity to employers for actions taken to comply with the law’s intent of letting employees keep firearms in their locked vehicles without getting fired, but that this immunity isn’t total.
Neighboring Tennessee “has seen a fair amount of gun- and employment-related litigation over the past three to five years,” Justin Furrow, a management-side attorney and shareholder at Chattanooga, Tenn., law firm Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel P.C., told Bloomberg Law March 19.
The state legislature has been trying to balance employers’ rights as private property owners to determine whether and under what conditions to allow guns in the workplace with the rights of gun-owning workers, especially those with concealed-carry permits, Furrow said.
Tennessee requires employers to allow workers to bring their guns in the cars they drive to work and park in the employee parking lot. An employee who is fired for doing that has a right to sue the employer, Furrow said, adding that there have not been many lawsuits in this scenario.
Texas, West Virginia, and other “hunting states” have similar laws, Matthew Doherty, senior vice president of security risk management for Chicago-based security firm Hillard Heintze, told Bloomberg Law March 19. Some states also prohibit an employer from not hiring—or firing—someone because he or she has a concealed-carry permit, he said. Illinois and Tennessee allow employers to ban guns in the workplace only if they have proper signage, which in Illinois must quote the relevant state law verbatim, he said.
The Second Amendment is not necessarily the determining factor when it comes to guns in the workplace because it restrains government action against gun owners, not employers’ rights as property owners to decide whether to allow guns on their property, Michael Corcoran, founder and president of the Workthreat Group LLC, Newport Beach, Calif., told Bloomberg Law March 19. Theoretically, he said, an employer could decide to allow employees who do not have concealed-carry permits to carry their guns in the workplace.
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, as required by state and federal law and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Doherty said. So if an employer allows workers to carry guns in the workplace, it is even more vital “to have a workplace violence prevention program in place that recognizes the signs” that somebody poses a threat of violence, he said.
Most workers undergo background screening when applying for a job, and such screenings should be recurrent in workplaces that allow guns, Doherty said. “Just because you can legally possess a weapon does not mean you don’t have troubling behaviors, so you have to have a program in place so that those behaviors are recognized and reported to management, and management knows what to do with the information.”
Relying on employees with guns to stop a workplace shooter is foolish, he said, because the shooter is often familiar with the workplace and who there is likely to be armed. Responding police officers, however, will shoot first and ask questions later if they see anyone who is armed.
Employers that allow workers to carry guns should follow the three parameters under federal law, Doherty said: prohibiting guns to anyone undergoing court-ordered mental health treatment, anyone under a restraining order or protective order, and anyone who has been convicted of a violent crime. Employers that allow workers to keep a gun in a locked car must ensure the employee lawfully possesses the gun, that it is out of view, and that it is locked inside the car, in the glove compartment or trunk, in accordance with the law, he said.
In all cases, employers need to know state law and consult counsel when developing policies, he said, adding that employers face legal liability if someone is injured by gunfire on their property.
In Corcoran’s view, “zero tolerance” policies on guns are impractical and should be replaced by more flexible “no tolerance” policies; for example, giving an employee a verbal warning if he mistakenly brings a gun to work after a trip to the shooting range.
To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at email@example.com
Copyright © 2018 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)