Dave Poteete 2017-09-06 05:34:15
Workplace gun safety In light of recent mass shootings, many employers may be considering policies prohibiting their employees from possessing firearms during work time or on company property. Such policies help to protect other employees and employers from liability. At the same time, gun-rights advocates, such as the National Rifle Association, carry great weight in state legislatures and have been able to ensure the passage of laws protecting the right to bear firearms. Many states have adopted laws restricting an employer’s ability to prohibit employees from possessing firearms. Employer’s considering such policies should be aware of the following. POTENTIAL LIABILITY FOR EMPLOYERS Employers could have liability for crimes committed by employees who have guns at work. Generally, employers are not liable for crimes committed by their employees. However, if the employer knew or should have known of an employee’s violent tendencies and that the employee possessed a firearm, it could be liable for injuries caused by the employee on the theory that it negligently hired the employee or negligently continued to employ the employee. Worker’s comp laws require an employer to pay for injuries suffered by an employee on the job and could cover injuries inflicted by another employee with a gun. OSHA requires employers to provide a safe working environment for all employees; failing to prevent an employee from injuring other workers with a firearm could be construed as a breach of this duty. FEDERAL LAW DOES NOT REGULATE GUNS IN THE WORKPLACE However, some state laws limit employers’ ability to restrict an employee’s possession of firearms during work time or on the employer’s property. PARKING LOT LAWS More than 20 states have enacted “parking lot laws,” which provide that an employee may have a lawfully-possessed firearm in his/her car in a company parking lot, garage, etc. However, most of these laws allow an employer to prohibit an employee from carrying a firearm on his/her person while working, having a firearm in company offices or having a firearm in a company vehicle. POSTING Some states require employers to post notices if they are going to prohibit employees from possessing firearms in the workplace. As an example, under Tennessee law it is crime for an employee to possess a firearm on properly posted property. While policies restricting an employee’s ability to possess a firearm at their place of employment or during working hours help to protect other employees and the employer from liability, employers should be aware of state laws protecting an employee’s right to possess firearms. Currently, prohibiting employees from carrying a firearm on his or her person while working or from having guns in the employer’s office is permissible in every state. However, prohibiting employees from having firearms in their personal vehicles — even in a company parking lot — and discriminating against gun owners in hiring or the terms and conditions of employment can result in liability in many states. The website www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws provides a summary of gun laws per state. Since many distributors have locations in multiple states, it’s important to remember the differences that arise between each state. Dave Poteete is COO of M. Cooper Winsupply. He is a member of ASA’s Safety Committee, ASA’s Plumbing Division Executive Council and an at-large member on ASA’s Board of Directors.
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