Many Florida HR managers will be needing to update their policy handbooks in the wake of contentious new legislation giving employees the right to keep a gun in a locked car at work. On April 15, Governor Charlie Crist signed the Preservation & Protection of the Right to Keep & Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008, which says that beginning July 1, employees with concealed weapons can keep a gun locked in their car at work, even on the employer’s private property. Organizations that have polices banning weapons from company premises will need to revise those policies. The law pertains to both public and private employers with some few exceptions: aerospace, nuclear power plants, hospitals, schools, prisons and manufacturers that use combustible materials.
Many employers have been fighting this legislation for years under a coalition called Guns at Work. In reaction to the newly enacted legislation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation announced plans to file for an injunction in federal court against the legislation. Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce stated:
“This law is unnecessary and a violation of the private property rights provided by the Constitution. We are taking this action to restore what 80 percent of Florida voters believe to be true—that a business owner should be able to decide if employees can or cannot bring guns on their property.”
According to the Brady Foundation, the National Rifle Association has been lobbying heavily in many states to promote such legislation. (See Forced Entry: The National Rifle Association’s Campaign to Force Businesses to Accept Guns at Work PDF) Several other states have passed similar laws – Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota and Kentucky. At least 13 other states have rejected such laws, and Oklahoma passed a similar law, only to have it recently overturned in the courts.
Oklahoma – similar measure overturned in court
Opponents have some grounds for hoping that this might be overturned. A similar measure passed in Oklahoma in 2004 in response to the firing of a dozen Weyerhaeuser employees in 2002 for having guns locked in their cars in the company parking lot. After wending its way through courts for a number of years, the law has been overturned. In October 2007, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern issued a permanent injunction against the law which prohibits employers from banning firearms at the workplace. The judge made his ruling based on the law’s conflict with federal law, specifically, the 1970 Occupational Health and Safety Act, which preempted the Oklahoma law. OSHA requires requires employers to lessen hazards in their workplaces that could lead to death or serious bodily harm. OSHA also encourages employers to prevent gun-related workplace injuries.
For further discussion on this topic, see our prior post Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?.