If you think the national division over guns hasn’t hit your workplace, you haven’t been listening. Not only are the employees who advocate for increased gun control, including a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15, engaged in an active argument with those who argue for fewer restrictions on gun owners’ ability to carry concealed firearms, but some of your coworkers or employees may be packing.

Does your employee handbook address whether your employer allows employees or non-employees to bring guns onto worksites?

What about whether employees can keep guns in their cars or trucks?

The concealed handgun permit statues in many states don’t address whether those legally permitted to own guns can bring them to work or carry them into others’ workplaces. Instead, it’s up to employers to decide whether to prohibit employees and others from bringing a firearm into a secure, restricted access area, such as a work area (like the cubicle next to yours) by posting a conspicuous and clearly worded notice.

Employers may generally also prohibit employees from leaving firearms in their vehicles if they park in an employer-owned or controlled lot that is within 300 feet of their restricted work access area and not open to the public.

But what if those employees need their guns for personal off-duty reasons, such as hunting or commuting safety? And what if those carrying guns in their parked car or on their person could protect others and prevent death should an active shooter arrive?

Here’s what employers need to consider:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers need to provide a work environment free of recognized hazards to employee health and safety. This “General Duty Clause” requires employers to take steps to reduce the risk of harm.

Employers need to realize that they may be vicariously liable for wrongful acts by an employee who shoots another when “acting in the course and scope of employment.”

While an employee who acts violently generally acts outside the scope of employment, what if an armed employee attacks a coworker and the employer knew the first employee had a temper but took no precautions? Could the employer be sued for negligence?

If you’re an employer worried by this post, you may wonder if you can arrange insurance to protect your company. If you allow guns in your workplace, let your liability insurer know and ask them so you’ll know whether you have insurance protection. Unfortunately, they may cancel your policy or increase your rates due to the increased liability risks.

Has the national division over guns hit your workplace? Of course it has.

(c) 2022 Lynne Curry

You may want to check out Tuesday’s post, “The Signs of Potential Disaster Were Present at Walmart—Are They at Your Workplace? https://bit.ly/3iJsro5 and Thursday’s post, Workplace safety promises: we plan to assure our employees we have procedures to keep them safe, https://bit.ly/3W38K96.

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9 thoughts on “Guns in the Workplace

  1. My former employer has had mass shooting incidents in multiple states; it caused us to show the active shooter video to all of our employees again. All the companies that I have worked for have prohibited an employee carrying a weapon on them or having one in their car. I tend to be a non-violent person who strongly believes that the only thing a violent response will bring is more violence.

    Employees however are frustrated as they watch millions of dollars of merchandise walk out the door and not be able to do anything about it or they are scared because of the threat of violence. Now in many states, employees are scared to go to work for fear of being killed at work by a disgruntled manager, employee, or a person with issues who decides to target their workplace for one reason or another.

    When Covid hit, we were told that we had to ask customers to put on a mask or leave. In the interest of putting employees lives first, I cautioned them not to press the matter if a customer was confrontational. Mask wearing turned into a political debate vs. a concern about health. One day a customer walked in without a mask. Some of the employees came and found me and told me about the guy, when I saw him he was packing a clearly visible firearm and they asked if they should press the issue about wearing a mask. I told them it wasn’t required if they felt unsafe approaching him because he had a clearly visible firearm. I told them to let it go and if another customer complained about it then refer them to me.

    Grocery store Karen or Kevin is funny until you are face to face dealing with that highly self entitled individual. The switch that Covid flipped was not only one of empty shelves, fear, frustration, disbelief, and isolation, it was also one where people became easily agitated, irrational and highly confrontational in a seemingly unprecedented level. Increasingly the trend for more than a few people is – if I have to threaten or get violent to get my way, then that is exactly what I will do.

    What is an employer supposed to do when faced with these kinds of issues in the workplace? Why aren’t people who see the warning signs saying something sooner? It almost seems as though we are accepting what is going on as the new normal. Although some of these things have not happened here…it is only a matter of time.

    1. “I tend to be a non-violent person who strongly believes that the only thing a violent response will bring is more violence.”

      I sincerely wish Your Pollyanna beliefs would carry over to the real world and I convey no disrespect to You by disagreeing.

      In every incident that comes to mind, a bad guy with a gun is always stopped by a good guy with a gun: a policer officer and/or an armed citizen disarms the shooter either by shooting him or threatening to do so, or a police officer and/or an armed citizen threatens to shoot the gunman and the gunman saves them the trouble by shooting himself.

      The reality is passiveness and waiting for help to arrive only cause more deaths.

  2. Statistically, mass shooters choose “Gun Free Zones” to commit their dastardly deeds. Many people are afraid of guns; some even of the word “gun”. Guns are tools and as any tool, they can be misused.

    The workplace and society have changed and not for the better. Personally, if I were a business owner, I would want my employees protected as much as possible from the threat of a disgruntled worker or a deranged outsider. This would include all employees having access to Bear Spray and some qualified individuals being armed.

    I would post a sign at all entrances that armed security personnel are on the premises. Hopefully, this would discourage violence. Any person seeking employment would be apprised of the security policy and their decision as whether to seek employment would be up to them.

    I’m sure my position will create a backlash from some; however, as an employer, I would have a responsibility to my employees and their families to provide a workplace as safe as humanly possible.

    1. You’ve got a valid viewpoint. I had two former police officers (one a chief, with SWAT experience, and one a detective) and I let them “pack” when we had anger management clients in for consultations. At the same time, there are employees who own guns who I wouldn’t want to bring them in.

      1. “At the same time, there are employees who own guns who I wouldn’t want to bring them in.”

        Agree wholeheartedly. I even have acquaintances who I wouldn’t want to hunt with as their “gun etiquette” leaves much to be desired.

  3. An impressive array of issues about carrying and storing guns in your vehicle at work. And all true, all present! There is lots to think about here. Add to the mix the states that allow concealed carry and open carry, and you have even more things to think about.

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