In recent years, at least 13 states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah — have enacted what are commonly referred to as “guns-at-work” laws. These laws have raised concerns for employers because they permit employees to store their firearms in vehicles located on company property. Some of the laws go a step further by specifically prohibiting employers from establishing policies that ban employees from engaging in this practice. Generally, for employees to store their firearms in a vehicle, these laws require that: 1) the employee be properly licensed to own/carry the weapon, 2) the vehicle storing the gun belong to the employee or be privately owned, and 3) the vehicle be locked. Some laws also require the firearm not be visible from outside the vehicle. Given growing concerns about workplace violence, employers must be creative in order to establish effective safety policies while staying in compliance with the law. Below are some tips for employers operating in a state with a guns-at-work law.
- Check for Exemptions. If you are in a state that has enacted a guns-at-work law, it is possible that the law will not impact your organization. Several of these laws allow employers to ban the presence of firearms in their parking areas under certain circumstances; for example, if the employer provides a secured parking area or if the presence of firearms in the parking area would violate the employer's compliance with other laws. Therefore, you should review the law to determine whether your organization qualifies for one of the exemptions.
- Know the Particulars of the Law. Some state laws are more expansive than others; therefore, it is important to be aware of the various provisions in your respective state law. For example, Florida law is fairly restrictive because it prohibits employers from searching a privately owned vehicle for the presence of a firearm and from inquiring as to the presence of a firearm in a privately owned vehicle.
- Review Policies and Procedures. Existing policies and procedures should be reviewed to ensure they conform to the law and, if necessary, be revised. This is of particular importance to employers with operations in more than one state, as the variation between state laws will make it more difficult to retain policies that are uniform across the organization. Also, consider establishing a workplace violence policy if your organization does not currently have one in place.
- Train Employees. Provide employee training on how to spot the warning signs of a potentially threatening situation, how to react if directly faced with a threatening situation, and how to report these incidents.
- Provide Employee Assistance Programs. Provide employee assistance programs that create a supportive environment and help employees manage anger, anxiety, and other emotions in a constructive, non-violent manner.
- Implement Security Measures. Put security measures in place that limit access to the workplace, monitor for suspicious conduct, and detect the presence of weapons. Possible security measures include issuing security cards, hiring security guards, or installing metal detectors, silent alarms, or security cameras.