Much Ado About Nothing: The Firearm Carry Act of 2021’s De Minimis Effect on Guns in the Workplace
Keys. Phone. Wallet. Mask. For the past year, those have been the staple items most individuals have ensured they have on their person before leaving their home to go to work. But as Covid-19 cases continues to subside in the United States, and more and more individuals stop donning masks, Texans might start putting down their masks and picking up something new on their way out the door: Cue the Firearm Carry Act of 2021. The Texas act, which was sent to Governor Abbot for signature on May 28, 2021 and expected to go in effect September 1, 2021, allows persons 21 years and older to possess and carry firearms in public without a government issued permit or license, provided state or federal law does not otherwise prohibit the individual from possessing the firearm.
While the law certainly makes it easier for individuals to carry firearms in public, it does not give individuals the right to carry firearms carte blanche. Importantly for employers, the act explicitly states that it does not interfere with an employer’s right to prohibit their employees from carrying a firearm on the employer’s “premises.” Employers likely remember discovering what the law considered their premises to be nearly 10 years ago after Texas lawmakers gave employees with permits the right to store firearms in their locked personal vehicle. An employer’s premises includes “buildings and parts of buildings,” but not parking areas, driveways, or sidewalks. From an employment law perspective, the new act merely extends to unlicensed gun owners, the rights that licensed gun owners already have. Assuming Governor Abbot signs the law, employees must be allowed to keep firearms in their own private, locked vehicles on employer parking lots or in employer parking garages.
Because some employees are likely to be unfamiliar with the act’s restrictions, employers should consider sending a friendly communication to their workforce that provides both a description of the act’s limitations and a reminder of the employer’s firearms policy. Employers might also consider placing notices on employee entrances that firearms are not allowed on the premises, a topic we discussed a couple years ago.
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.