We occasionally get calls from clients wondering if they can prohibit employees from bringing properly registered firearms in their vehicles onto the company parking lot.
While 20 states have laws that regulate whether employees have the right to transport and store licensed, concealed weapons in their locked vehicles in an employer’s parking lot, the majority of states – including Pennsylvania – do not. In states without an express statute on point, the courts generally give employers the right to control the workplace – including restrictions on the possession of weapons – and to terminate employees for violating those policies by bringing weapons onto the premises.
Recently, in Stewart v. FedEx Express and Federal Express Corp., the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld the right of FedEx to terminate Timothy Stewart for carrying a handgun in the glove compartment of his personal vehicle while performing work for FedEx. FedEx’s policy prohibits employees from having firearms or weapons on company property, in company vehicles or in company buildings, unless authorized by FedEx security.
The Superior Court rejected Mr. Stewart’s constitutional claim that he had an unrestricted “right to bear arms,” even at work: “neither the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, nor the Pennsylvania Constitution, bestows on any person the right to carry a concealed firearm or transport a loaded firearm in a vehicle.”
Moreover, the Court noted that Pennsylvania has no right-to-carry law that restricts employers from prohibiting firearms on their property or while performing work duties. This result contrasts sharply with a recent case in Kentucky, where state law expressly prohibits employers from preventing employees from possessing licensed firearms and ammunition in a locked vehicle on company property.
It is beyond challenge that allowing firearms at work is dangerous. Guns accounted for 80 percent of all workplace homicides in 2013, with 322 employees shot and killed on the job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Importantly, researchers have found that homicides are five to seven times more likely at workplaces that permit firearms.
Two bullet points on this entry:
- When dealing with issues relating to weapons at work – including in the company parking lot – check your state laws before taking action; and
- If your company is serious about preventing workplace violence and providing a safe work environment, adopt a policy that expressly forbids firearms and weapons at work – including in vehicles that park in company lots or are used for company business, unless such a policy is prohibited under state law. In the latter case, adopt a policy that provides as much protection as possible.
Michael Homans is a Labor & Employment attorney and founding partner of HomansPeck LLC. For more employment law updates, including news and links to important information pertaining to legal developments that may affect your business, subscribe to Michael’s blog, or follow him on Twitter @EmployLawUpdate.