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Understand the Legal Climate Surrounding Guns in the Workplace — and When to Use Policy and Postings to Increase Safety

As a responsible business owner, maintaining a safe, productive workplace is paramount. Yet seeing various acts of violence unfold across the country can leave you feeling vulnerable and questioning how to protect your employees, particularly regarding weapons in the workplace.

What can you do to safeguard your business from potential harm, and does that involve restricting weapons in the workplace? Since federal law doesn’t directly address weapons at private workplaces, you’ll have to drill down and review state-specific legislation. Let’s look at the latest legal allowances and how they may impact your policy decisions and posting requirements.

Enforcing a Total Ban on Weapons

In some states, employers can totally ban weapons on company property, which is typically defined as all company-owned or leased buildings and surrounding areas, such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways and parking lots. Basically, your right to set rules on your private property holds more weight than an employees’ right to concealed carry in these states.

OSHA encourages businesses to adopt anti-weapons and anti-violence policies, in addition to assessing the workplace for potential safety risks. When implementing a workplace policy, it’s important to communicate it to all employees in writing. You should use clear, straightforward language and indicate that employees who violate the policy will face disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Whether you use email or a printed copy to distribute the policy, it’s a best practice to have your employees sign and date a form acknowledging they read and understood the policy. These signed acknowledgments should be kept on file so employees can’t claim that they didn’t know about the company policy.

You can also strengthen your policy by displaying posters and notices in prominent locations where employees, customers and visitors can easily view them.

Weapons in the Parking Lot May Be Allowed

Currently, roughly half of states have enacted laws preventing employers from completely banning weapons at the workplace. These laws, commonly referred to as “parking lot”, “guns-at-work” and “guns-in-trunks” laws, allow employees to bring a weapon to work in their vehicle.

Although employers in these states have the right to keep weapons out of the office or building, it’s acceptable for employees to store weapons in personal vehicles while parked at the worksite. The laws vary from state to state but typically require employees to meet certain conditions, such as:

  • The gun must be lawfully possessed
  • When the employee is not inside the vehicle, the gun must be stored out of plain sight in a locked compartment or container.
  • The vehicle must be operated or parked in a specific location
  • The vehicle must not be owned or leased by the employer

Carrying a firearm on most federal properties is illegal under federal laws, so parking lot laws wouldn’t apply in those cases. And different laws may apply to certain institutions such as schools, hospitals and state-owned buildings.

When combined with training, security measures and appropriate reinforcement,
a weapons-free workplace policy can reduce the incidence of workplace violence.

Posting requirements may vary by state, too, which is especially challenging if your business operates in multiple states. In Tennessee, for example, the requirements for signs are extremely detailed. Signs must meet specific dimensions and include certain phrases, along with the “no firearms allowed” symbol.

In Texas, employers must post signs in both English and Spanish. These signs must be prominently displayed at entrances and follow specific color, style and font guidelines. For gun owners with open-carry licenses, separate signs are required.

“No Weapons” Posting Compliance Simplified

It’s a tough task for employers to keep up with state laws and posting requirements for a weapons-free workplace. If you’re looking for an efficient and professional solution to make compliance easier, look no further than “No Weapons" State-Specific Posters. Where applicable, a state-specific poster alerts employees and visitors that you’re a weapons-free establishment and delivers an immediate message to prevent them from entering with concealed weapons.

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