On March 21, 2018, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law House Bill 4187, referred to as the Business Liability Protection Act, which limits an employer’s ability to prohibit the lawful possession of firearms locked in vehicles parked in company parking lots. Previously, employers and other property owners in West Virginia had the ability to prohibit the carrying or concealing of firearms on any property “under his or her domain,” including parking areas. HB 4187 amends the prior law to create an exception for employer parking lots.
Under the new law, employers may not prohibit any customer, employee, or other person lawfully on the premises from storing a lawfully possessed firearm inside of a privately owned vehicle in a company parking lot, so long as the firearm is out of view and locked inside the vehicle. Further, employers are prohibited from “violating the privacy rights” of their customers or employees by asking about the presence of a firearm locked inside a vehicle, or performing an actual search for a firearm within a vehicle on a company parking lot. Lastly, the law prohibits employers from conditioning employment on an employee’s agreement not to keep a firearm locked inside his or her vehicle, or on whether an employee holds a concealed carry license.
Notably, the Act’s new provisions apply only to parking areas. Employers may continue to prohibit the carrying or concealment of firearms in the other areas of the employer’s business, such as sidewalks or buildings. Further, the Act applies only to privately-owned vehicles, and does not impact an employer’s ability to prohibit firearms inside of vehicles owned, rented, or leased by the employer. While the Business Liability Protection Act limits an employer’s control over portions of its own premises, it does provide the employer with immunity from civil liability based upon the employer’s compliance with the law. Further, the law does not create or expand any existing duty on the part of the employer to provide a safe workplace.
The West Virginia Attorney General is authorized to enforce the Act’s provisions by seeking injunctive relief and/or civil penalties of not more than $5,000 for each violation, plus costs and attorney’s fees. Alternatively, customers and employees are also expressly granted a private right action to enforce the parking lot provisions of the Act, but are only entitled to the same equitable relief and civil penalties available as if the action were prosecuted by the Attorney General.
The Business Liability and Protection Act takes effect on June 8, 2018. West Virginia employers should review their security, weapons, or other similar employment policies to ensure compliance with HB 4187.