The recent spate of mass shootings in the U.S. is understandably causing many employers to re-examine their workplace weapons policies. As with all workplace issues, however, employers should be careful to make sure their policies comply with applicable laws. Ohio law, for example, has for years prohibited employers from banning firearms and ammunition from their parking lots if the person bringing them has a valid concealed handgun license and stores them in a privately owned motor vehicle. About half of the states have similar laws that are commonly referred to as “guns in trunks” statutes.
Notably, Ohio has a new gun law that takes effect on June 13 permitting all qualified adults to carry certain concealed firearms, even without a license. Although that law does not expressly modify Ohio’s existing parking lot law, it is reasonable to conclude that it will allow all qualified adults to bring their guns to work and store them in personal vehicles in their employer’s parking lot.
Some states go beyond parking lot laws to protect gun owners from employer policies, such as states that make gun ownership a protected classification. In states like Kentucky, for example, employers are not permitted to discriminate or retaliate against employees for owning, possessing or using guns and ammunition.
Despite these and other legal restrictions, safety-minded employers can still implement common sense weapons policies that: prohibit employees from bringing weapons into the workplace, to the extent permissible by the applicable law; establish a confidential process by which employees can report violations; identify the security and/or law enforcement personnel who will be involved in addressing violations; and establish clear penalties for violations.