Bearing Arms Part II: Firearms Policy Safety Considerations
In our last installment on state regulation of employers’ firearms policies, found here, we discussed the legal boundaries that Texas imposes on firearms policies generally. Today, we turn towards some of the safety considerations an employer may weigh when they are choosing what kind of policy they will implement.
The simplest stance an employer can take is to implement a blanket ban on firearms in the workplace, subject to the previously-discussed state law limitations. The advantages of this kind of policy are straightforward. When there are no firearms in the workplace, it is impossible for firearms-based injuries and accidents to occur. Additionally, uniformly banning firearms may benefit employee morale where not all employees in a workforce are onboard with having armed coworkers.
While the purpose of prohibitive firearms policies is to keep employees safe, some gun advocates have argued that policies prohibiting firearms may actually endanger employees due to the risk of disgruntled employees using firearms on defenseless coworkers. Where an employer is moved either by this consideration or other considerations unique to their workforce, they may decide that it is in their employees’ best interest that firearms be allowed in the workplace under certain circumstances.
Even under such a scenario, it still makes sense for the employer to have a clear and comprehensive firearms policy. While Texas state law offers immunity from civil liability to employers who are required to allow firearms into their parking areas, those protections do not expressly extend to employers who allow firearms within their premises more generally. Federal safety laws have also been used to impose liability on employers where their firearms policies were found to be inadequate or unenforced.
If an employer is considering instituting or modifying a policy concerning firearms in the workplace, their paramount concern should be safety. Employers should craft their policy to be as narrowly tailored to any motivating safety considerations as possible. Such tailoring may specify what kinds of firearms will be permitted, where firearms and ammunition must be stored within the workplace, and which employees will be permitted to carry firearms. Additionally, the employer may request that any employees who plan to carry or store firearms in the workplace produce proof that they may legally own and carry the firearms in question. Finally, employers should monitor and inspect for whether or not employees are complying with the firearms policy after implementation, and when they find violations, they should immediately impose any appropriate disciplinary action.
Whatever employers choose to do, they should make sure their firearms policy is clearly written, comprehensive and directed towards enhancing safety in the workplace. Once they have it developed, they should then communicate that policy — along with the rationale behind it — to their employees. This understanding can go a long way in promoting employees’ adherence to and comfort with whatever workplace policy they choose to implement.
This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.