On January 1, 2016, Texas became the 45th state to allow the open carry of firearms. This affects most private employers, with exceptions for schools and certain areas of oil and gas refineries. Private and public businesses that wish to prohibit the carrying of concealed and/or openly carried firearms must display, at every entrance to their premises, the following signage mandated by Texas Penal Code § 30.06 (regarding concealed handguns) and/or § 30.07 (regarding openly carried handguns):
Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun
Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.
The signage must be displayed in a conspicuous manner at the entrances in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height.
Employers are still free to ban their employees from carrying concealed and/or openly carried weapons, with the understanding that off-duty employees will be subject to the same prohibitions – or lack thereof – as the general public. In light of this new law, employers should review their policies to make sure that they prohibit in the workplace not just concealed firearms but openly carried ones as well.
While employers may ban guns within the workplace, they must still allow employees with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) to store their firearms in their privately owned vehicles parked in the employer's parking lot. Texas employees have had that right since September 2011; now, however, they may leave the firearms in plain sight instead of concealing them, as previously required. As a common sense matter, it seems unlikely that most CHL-holding employees would leave their firearms in plain sight, but to the extent they do, the risk of theft increases. As employers may be subject to liability for theft in their parking lots, they should be sure to post signs in their parking lots stating they are not liable for theft or damage.
Notably, the new Open Carry Law is silent regarding employer liability arising from an employee and his or her openly carried weapon. Whereas the 2011 concealed handgun law expressly granted employers immunity from civil actions arising from firearms and ammunition stored in an employee's vehicle, the new law grants no such immunity to employers for civil actions arising from employees' openly carried weapons.
In light of the new Open Carry Law, employers must determine their policy regarding the extent to which to allow employees and/or third parties (customers, guests, vendors, etc.) to enter their premises with firearms. They should then evaluate their written policies and signage to ensure they comport with the new law.