Showdown looms over 'bring your gun to work' laws
Some companies aren't happy about states letting employees store firearms in their vehicles while on the job.
They're known as "bring your gun to work" or "parking lot" laws, and Alabama will soon become the latest of about 20 states to have such a measure. The NRA-supported bill was signed into law in May and takes effect in Alabama on Aug. 1.
The new law allows people with valid permits to keep firearms stored in their vehicles while at work. And those with a valid state hunting licenses can keep an unloaded rifle or shotgun in their vehicles while at work. Among its provisions, including how and when a firearm can be transported onto company property, the NRA notes the Alabama law "extends the current Castle Doctrine to include places of business to ensure the right of self-defense does not end when you enter your business."
While gun-rights advocates applaud such measures, these laws also create tricky legal challenges for many companies and employers concerned about both workplace security and possible lawsuits related to gun rights.
The law "provides the employees with a cause of action and a right to go into court, which is a big change for this subject," Marion Walker, with the Fisher & Phillips law firm, told the Birmingham Business Journal.
For example, the law firm suggests employers not ask their employees if they're carrying a gun. If an employer thinks a worker poses a risk to himself or others, it can inquire about a firearm in the person's vehicle. However, as the BBJ notes, "the law does not define how a company could arrive at that conclusion."
These laws have also been opposed by companies such as FedEx (FDX) and Volkswagen (VLKAY), which believe an employer's right to decide if a gun is allowed on company property should have precedent over an individual's gun rights.
"FedEx should be allowed to continue to implement policies that are designed to protect our employees from irrational or heat-of-the-moment actions by their co-workers," Mark Hogan, the company's vice president for security, said during testimony last year before Tennessee lawmakers. "Allowing employees to have near, immediate access to firearms, at work, creates an element of risk that is unacceptable."
In the meantime, experts are advising Alabama companies to review and revise any workplace violence-prevention policies to ensure they comply with the new law.
"Also look hard at updating your Professional Conduction of Prohibition Against Harassment to include prohibitions on bullying as objectionable conduct," Tommy Eden, a management labor attorney at Contangy, Brooks & Smith, recently wrote in the Opelika-Auburn News. "Workers who are bullied at work may decide that the gun in their pickup is the great equalizer."
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