Weapons in the Workplace – What Employers Need to Know

Weapons in the Workplace - What Employers Need to Know

Employers should be aware of their rights and liabilities when employees bring weapons to work.

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Workplaces have become a target for gun violence. The question is what you, as an employer, can do to make your workplace safe.

All employers are mandated by both federal and state laws to make a reasonable effort to provide a safe workplace for their employees, to identify and find possible areas of vulnerability, and to take the necessary steps to prevent workplace violence. As a result of this, many employers are instituting "weapons-free" workplaces by having a policy that states that no guns or knives are allowed in the workplace. This is good - but not without issues.

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State Laws on Weapons in the Workplace

Since laws can vary from state to state and they are changing all the time, it can be very complicated. Some states allow an employer to bar firearms on its property if it posts certain notices or signs. Some states prohibit discrimination or retaliation against gun owners and some limit an employer’s ability to ask if the employee has weapons in their car or search their employees’ vehicles on its property. Some states prohibit employers from refusing to hire or terminate employees because they own guns or have concealed carry permits. Employers who have multistate locations must consider the laws in each state in which they operate and adjust their policies as needed.

Weapons in Public Workplaces

Workplaces that are open to the public are even more complicated. What are the laws regarding public places and large public venues? In these cases, considerations may go beyond just the laws. Do the rules apply the public as well as to your employees? How will this affect your brand identity and how will the public react?

What about your parking lot? Does it fall under the same rules as your facility? Many states have enacted laws which provide that an employee may have a lawfully possessed firearm in their car in a company parking lot or garage.

Establishing a Firearms Policy

In establishing firearms policies, you must consider your state laws and to whom who the policy will apply. Does it apply to security personnel, part-time/contract labor, visitors or others, as well as to your employees? There are many questions and laws to consider.

The best course of action is to have your HR department and your legal counsel work together. Or you may wish to work with an outside consultant familiar with the issues. No matter the size or type of your business, you need to develop a firearms policy as part of your workplace violence prevention program. And once you have developed it include it in your company policy handbook, distribute it to your employees, discuss it with them and post it on your premises.