Guns in the Workplace

Guns in the Workplace

Guns in the WorkplaceIn a Texas office, when someone tells Annie to get her gun, all she’ll have to do is step into the parking lot, unlock her car, and pull it out.  That’s because Texas, like more than a dozen other states, has passed a law that makes it illegal for employers to mandate a “gun-free” workplace.

This can be traced back to 2002, when Weyerhauser fired some Oklahoma employees for having guns in their cars on company property, violating the company’s policy.  Lawmakers jumped to protect employees’ rights to bear arms, at least as far as the parking lot.

Since that time, many other states have followed suit, and the laws have withstood legal challenges.

The arguments for and against workplace firearm policies:

There are many critics of the parking lot gun laws.  Generally speaking, the laws provide protections to employers, granting them limited liability for incidents involving guns and injuries.  A company, however, is not totally immune from responsibility.

Under OSHA’s “general duty” clause employers must provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  Critics argue that guns on the premises conflict with this employer obligation.

An example would be the case of Amanda Beech vs. Hercules Drilling Co., LLC in which an employee’s gun accidentally discharged, killing a coworker.  The employer was held vicariously liable and ordered to pay the deceased employee’s family almost $1.2 million.

Opponents argue that the decision should be left up to the individual company.  Employers who want to forbid firearms on their property should be able to set that employee policy.  They argue these laws create a new protected class, the gun-toting employee.

Proponents argue that keeping a legal handgun in a locked private vehicle is a Second Amendment right, and that employer’s private property rights do not trump it.  They point out that the great majority of gun-related acts in workplaces are committed by strangers or former employees.  And they believe that someone determined to cause harm with a handgun will not be deterred by a policy barring it.

Do you want a firearm policy at your company?

While parking lot gun rights are not an explosive issue today in Washington state, it’s interesting to watch it play out in other states.  As it stands today, your company can create whatever policy it deems best for the corporation’s interests, and for the employees’ safety.  Are your employees safer when guns are banned from the premises, or is there peace of mind in knowing employees can provide protection for themselves and others in an emergency?