Amid concerns of workplace violence and the legal claims that often accompany such incidents, employers must now navigate an expanding universe of state laws governing the presence of guns in the workplace. Currently, approximately 20 states, including Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin have passed so-called "bring your guns to work laws," which allow licensed employees to bring firearms to work. Other states including South Carolina and Pennsylvania are considering similar legislation. Employers with operations in multiple states are finding it increasingly difficult to balance competing concerns of employee safety and compliance with these myriad new laws, as some states protect employees from employer vehicle searches, while others prevent employers from asking employees or applicants about their status as a gun owner.
Illinois' recent enactment of House Bill 183, the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, is the latest example of the challenges employers face when the state in which they operate passes a new law governing gun rights. The law, which took effect in July 2013, permits anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card who has passed a background check and undergone gunsafety training of 16 hours to obtain a concealed carry permit. Under the Act, a properly licensed individual may nevertheless be prohibited from carrying a firearm on private property where the owner has prohibited conceal and carry by posting a sign, "clearly and conspicuously," at the entrance of the building, premises or real property. Even then, however, a licensee is permitted to carry a concealed firearm on or about his or her person within a vehicle or within the external perimeter of a vehicle, while in a parking lot of property where conceal and carry is prohibited.
There are a number of factors that employers must consider in formulating policies and procedures relating to their employees' concealed carry rights, including whether their business space is leased or owned, the presence of on-site childcare facilities, and the applicability of certain special provisions in the statute that afford some employers greater flexibility to regulate conceal and carry.
As with most recently enacted laws, details are often lacking, and interpretation by the courts takes time. In the meantime, employers should review the laws of the states in which they operate to ensure their internal policies and procedures strike the appropriate balance between complying with concealed carry laws and management interest in providing all employees with a safe and secure workplace.