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Most Florida employers must allow employees to bring permitted guns to work if they are kept in a locked car.

Employer groups have filed lawsuits seeking to enjoin law.

Employers will not be able to ask employees if they have gun in car, cannot condition employment on employee not having permit and cannot discipline an employee who exhibits a gun on company premises for “defensive purposes.”

Most employers embrace the concept of Bring Your Child to Work Days. The State of Florida recently enacted a law which permits employees to Bring Your Gun to Work Everyday. Employers in the Sunshine State now face a host of challenges and enhanced potential for tort liability.

The Preservation & Protection of the Right to Keep & Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 takes effect on July 1, 2008. With few exemptions, it will allow employees and visitors to bring firearms to work as long as they have a state-issued concealed firearms permit and the firearm is kept in a locked car.

The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce have filed suit in federal court challenging the new law. The lawsuit claims that the law confl icts with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which requires employers to provide a working environment free from hazards likely to cause serious harm. The suit also asserts that the law unconstitutionally violates private property rights. There has been no ruling as of the publication date.

The New Law’s Requirements

Under the law, employers may not:

  • Prohibit an employee or visitor from keeping a lawfully possessed firearm in a locked car on the employer’s parking lot if they have lawful reason to be there.
  • Inquire whether there is a firearm in the employee or visitor’s car or search his or her car for firearms.
  • Condition employment upon: (1) the fact that employees or applicants hold a firearm’s permit, or (2) require employees or applicants to abide by an agreement that prohibits them from keeping firearms in their locked car at the workplace.
  • Discriminate or terminate an employee (or expel a visitor) who exhibits a firearm on company property (not just the parking lot) for lawful defensive purposes.

The bill does not prohibit an employer from banning guns in employer-owned vehicles, even when parked in the company parking lot.

Schools, jails, nuclear-power plants, workplaces involving national defense, aerospace, or homeland security, and workplaces that work with combustible or explosive materials regulated under state or federal law, are exempt. Employers face damages, including injunctive relief, civil penalties of up to $10,000, employee personal costs and losses, and attorneys’ fees.

Impact on Florida Employers

At a time where employers rightfully are sensitive to workplace violence, Florida follows Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi and Oklahoma with the most expansive guns-atwork law yet. The Oklahoma law is on appeal after being struck down for violating the OSHA requirement to provide a safe workplace.

Florida employers must balance this new employee right with their obligation to provide a safe workplace. Florida employers should: review their workplace weapons policy to make sure that it complies with the new law; address employee concerns about safety with appropriate training and security; and develop and test a violence response plan.