Beware: Your Employee Might Be Packin'

Beware: Your Employee Might Be Packin'

By Jerry Ballard

Businesses are going to have to address the issue of employee bringing their favorite firearm to work.

Most companies created or added policies on guns after the rise of workplace violence back in the 1980s and early ‘90s. Back then, it seems we were hearing about shootings every month.

While this was jokingly referred to as “going postal” since several of the incidents took place at a post office, it was a scary time to be a manager firing or disciplining an employee.

Despite the fact that most employers have clear policies that forbid employees from having a gun at their place of employment, several states don’t agree.

Nine states have recently passed laws allowing employees to bring guns to work: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Similar legislation has been proposed in other states, including Arizona, Missouri and Tennessee.

All of these laws are different, but the purpose is to allow an employee to bring a gun to work as long as it stays in their vehicle in the parking lot. Some of the laws allow the employer to prevent a gun from being stored in a company-owned vehicle. Many of the laws are unclear about how to handle an employee who works outside or one who travels and has a concealed carry permit.

In a study done in 2005 and published in the American Journal of Public Health, it was found that the risk of a worker being killed at work was substantially higher in workplaces where employer’s policy allowed workers to keep guns at work.

These businesses were five to seven times more likely to be the site of a worker homicide when compared to those where all weapons were prohibited.

Companies and other entities in states allowing guns at the workplace have sued to have these laws ruled unconstitutional but so far they have not been successful. What everyone seems to be waiting for is the first time an employee gets fired or just gets extremely angry, goes out to his car, comes back into the office and kills a few people. It is not a case of if this will happen but when.

Businesses face the double-edged sword: Do they (a) protect their employees by trying to enforce a weapons ban and face a discrimination suit from a gun-toting employee or (b) face the lawsuits when an employee gets killed or wounded by a fellow employee who retrieved his gun from his car in the parking lot.

Some employers are enacting radical solutions to try to placate both sides of the debate: the rights of gun-owning employees and the safety concerns of all employees. Designating a secure parking lot for employees who want to bring a gun to work or moving all parking further from the building are two of the approaches being tried.

Any employee who brings a gun to work is a potential discrimination lawsuit or incident waiting to happen the first time you attempt to discipline or fire them.

(C) 2010 Jerry Ballard, Perfect People Solutions

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