Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has signed amendments to the state gun law to limit employers’ ability to restrict employee possession of firearms in employers’ parking areas. The new law (SB 286), signed on May 20, 2013, becomes effective on August 1, 2013.
Employers in Alabama may restrict or prohibit their employees, including those with a concealed weapons permit, from carrying firearms while on the employer’s property or while engaged in work duties. Public and private employers, however, may not restrict the transportation or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or ammunition in an employee’s privately owned motor vehicle while it is parked or operated in a public or private parking area under the following circumstances:
- the employee has a valid concealed weapon permit; or
- the weapon (other than a pistol) is legal for hunting, and
- the employee possesses a valid Alabama hunting license,
- the weapon is unloaded at all times,
- it is hunting season in Alabama,
- the employee has not been convicted of a crime of violence,
- the employee has no documented prior workplace incidents involving the threat of physical injury or which resulted in physical injury,
- the vehicle is operated or parked where it is otherwise permitted to be, and
- if the vehicle is attended by the employee, the firearm or ammunition is kept from ordinary observation within the vehicle, or, if the vehicle is unattended, the firearm or ammunition is kept from ordinary observation and locked within a compartment or container.
If an employer believes its employee presents a risk of harm to himself or others, the employer may ask the employee whether he has a firearm in his vehicle. If the answer is yes, the employer may inquire to ensure the employee is in compliance with the above provisions. If the employee is not in compliance, the employer at its discretion may take adverse employment action against the employee. If the employee is in compliance, no adverse action may be taken based solely on the presence of the firearm.
An employer can make a complaint to law enforcement officers if it believes that an employee’s firearm is prohibited by state or federal law, that the vehicle contains stolen, prohibited or illegal property (other than a firearm), or that a threat is made by the employee to cause bodily harm to himself or others. If law enforcement officers, pursuant to a valid search warrant, discover a prohibited firearm, the employer may take adverse action against the employee.
If the employee is in full compliance with the law, or does not possess a firearm prohibited by state or federal law, and the employer takes adverse action against the employee, the employee may sue the employer for wrongful termination and recover lost wages and benefits, and compensation “for other lost remuneration caused by the termination, demotion, or other adverse action.” Attorney fees also may be available to the prevailing party.
Employers are immune from any claim, cause of action or lawsuit that may be brought as a result of any firearm brought onto the employer’s property. Moreover, the presence of a firearm on the employer’s property does not, by itself, constitute the employer’s failure to provide a safe workplace. Employers and property owners may, however, be found liable for their own wrongful affirmative acts that cause injury or damage to others.
Employers have no duty to patrol, inspect or secure parking lots, garages or other parking areas, or any private motor vehicle parked in such areas, and they have no duty to investigate, confirm or determine an employee’s compliance with the laws related to possession or transportation of a firearm.
Alabama employers should consider reviewing their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new law.