Twenty-one states have passed laws designed to protect an employee's right to possess concealed firearms on the employer's private property.  In response to the tragic gun violence occurring across the nation and the upsurge of new gun laws, we've received many calls from employers about what they need to know and what they should do.  Here is what we have told them:

  • You are right to be concerned.  According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), two million employees are victims of workplace violence each year.  Even after the shock and horror of a gun-related violent incident on company property subsides, such an incident can cripple operations and give rise to unwelcome publicity.  In the aftermath, the company may be involved in litigation for many years.  Claims may arise under state workers' compensation laws or under various tort theories such as failure to provide a safe workplace, negligent hiring or retention of employees, or vicarious liability for wrongful acts that occurred in the course of employment. 
  • Despite the potential liability (and argued infringement of private property rights), one state after another has enacted some type of law addressing guns at work.  Most of these laws share the common goal of protecting an individual's Second Amendment right to bear arms.  However, the laws differ as to the extent an employer can prohibit or restrict weapons at work.  Many state laws include provisions that:

-Protect employees' rights to store firearms in their private vehicles even when parked in the employer's parking lot.

-Limit an employer's ability to search vehicles on its property.

-Prohibit discrimination against gun owners.

-Permit employers to prohibit weapons at work only if they post a required notice.

-Subject an employer to fines for failure to comply with the law's restrictions or requirements.

-Provide protection to employers that comply, including immunity from injuries arising out of compliance.

  • Implementing or adjusting company policies without considering applicable state-specific gun laws may give rise to unintended consequences and liabilities. 
  • Take steps to educate yourself about gun laws and minimize your risk:

-Know the law of your state regarding guns at work.  Click here for a list of states that have Guns-at Work laws.

-Work with a knowledgeable legal professional to review existing policies on background checks and to implement and maintain a workplace violence policy that informs employees that threats or violent acts at the workplace are prohibited. 

-If a workplace ban on guns is desired, post appropriate conspicuous notices banning firearms inside the building.  Remember that some laws allow an employee to store firearms in a locked personal vehicle in the employer's parking lot and prohibit vehicle searches.

-Develop good relationships with local law enforcement and involve the authorities if there is any concern about a possible violent outburst or threat.

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