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Workplace Weapons Policy

Author: Ina R. Silvergleid

When to Use

All employers need to have a written policy addressing violence in the workplace. Typically, a workplace violence policy includes language addressing an employee's right to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon on the employer's premises. Less frequently do employers maintain a separate policy addressing the rights of employees to possess weapons in the workplace. However, given the recent trend of states adopting laws that strengthen employee Second Amendment rights, the adoption of a separate weapons policy may help to further highlight the employer's position on whether employees may bring weapons onto the employer's premises.

Since 2004, when Oklahoma became the first state to enact legislation protecting the right of an employee to transport a firearm to work in a vehicle, many other states have passed similar laws. Due to the patchwork of guns rights legislation that now exist - and will continue to proliferate - an employer must tailor its weapons policy to avoid conflicting with its states' workplace gun protections.

The common thread among these laws is that employers are prohibited from barring employees from transporting a firearm in an employee-owned vehicle, provided that the weapon is secured in a locked vehicle and/or stored out of sight. This prohibition extends to vehicles parked on an employer's property (e.g., an employee parking lot). However, some states uphold employers' property rights and, consequently, permit them to bar employees from transporting firearms in their vehicles if they are parked on the employer's property (versus a public way). In a few states, a narrow exception has been carved out for employees who park in a secured or restricted parking lot that is located on the employers' premises.

A number of states allow its citizens to carry a concealed weapon, and at least one state (Texas) allows the open carry of weapons. However, no states prohibit employers from adopting policies that bar employees from bringing their weapons into the workplace, even if the employee has a permit to carry. Generally, the employer must have adequate signage outside the building, in some cases dictated by law or regulation, warning employees and invitees (if the work premises are open to customers, clients and the public at large) that guns are not permitted in the building. Because of the inherent risks associated with firearms, it is not recommended that employers permit employees or other members of the public to bring a weapon into a workplace. The potential liability alone outweighs taking such a risk.

For employers who regularly let the public onto their premises, e.g., retail and entertainment establishments, in order to secure the safety of employees and customers, signage should be posted immediately outside the premises advising employees and customers in no uncertain terms that firearms and other dangerous weaponry are forbidden from being brought onto the premises. Customers should be further advised that violating this policy will result in their being asked to leave and/or that local law enforcement authorities will be called and that they risk being charged with criminal trespass to land, a misdemeanor offense.

A workplace violence policy is only useful when employees are familiar with its contents. This aphorism applies to any employer policy addressing employee conduct in the workplace. Therefore, it is recommended that employers provide a copy of their weapons policy to all new hires (regardless of their position in the company), following any actual or threatened incidents of workplace violence, and at periodic intervals (e.g., annually or following a well-publicized workplace violence incident that has occurred somewhere else). In addition to the policy, the employer needs to post notices throughout the worksite advising employees that they cannot bring any form of weaponry into the workplace. If the employer allows members of the public (customers, clients) onto the worksite, notices should be posted outside entrances to the building. In some states, where the notices need to be posted or what they say are expressly dictated by statute or regulation.

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