Guns in the Workplace? Developing a Balanced Risk Management Policy
Some employees want to carry guns to work, and laws in many states grant them that right.
Employers meanwhile have a duty under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure a safe working environment for employees. If a gun in the workplace harms someone, employers can face exposure arising from OSHA, workers’ compensation, negligence and/or vicarious liabilities.
If a company dismisses an employee for carrying a legally licensed gun at work, and doesn’t have a clear policy prohibiting guns, they could face a discrimination lawsuit.
Developing a corporate policy on guns is not just vital from a risk management and HR perspective, it’s a security issue. As companies actively instill policies to address exposure to workplace violence, active shooters or other security risks, they should be aware that no security policy is complete without a comprehensive and articulate position on guns at work.
Where to Begin: Weighing Your Options
Developing a corporate gun policy requires the expertise of many across an organization, including risk management, HR and security experts.
Given the myriad federal, state and local laws impacting gun rights, specialized legal expertise is essential.
At least 20 states have laws specifically addressing guns at work. Many have parking lot laws that allow employees to bring guns to work but expect them to be locked in their privately owned vehicles. Some states prohibit employers from curtailing employees’ rights to bring firearms to work altogether. Some local laws and regulations also mandate appropriate signage regarding gun policies at a facility.
Generally, companies have five fundamental options — all of which must be weighed in light of applicable laws:
- Permitting employees to carry guns at work, according to state law (carried or concealed);
- Permitting employees to bring guns to work as long as they are secured in lockers on premises;
- Permitting employees to bring guns as long as they are left in locked cars or car trunks (per local parking lot laws);
- Allowing only emergency response and security personnel to carry guns on premises; or
- Prohibiting guns in the workplace, even when employees are licensed to own or carry a weapon.
Implementing Your Policy
A workplace gun policy must be created and implemented hand-in-hand with a company’s overall security policies. For instance, if your policy prohibits employees from having guns on premises, are the same prohibitions enforced for visitors? If not, are you taking adequate steps to protect employees but not allowing them to protect themselves?
If your policy allows guns in your company’s parking lot in locked vehicles, how are you monitoring the parking lot to ensure no one is removing a gun from a vehicle and bringing it inside the facility? Are security cameras installed and monitored?
Issues like these should be ‘table-topped’ with legal and security teams so that all angles are considered and appropriate security measures can be put in place.
Once your policy has been created and vetted, it must be communicated, enforced and “institutionalized.”
This includes reviewing it during employee orientation, including it in the employee handbook, establishing appropriate signage communicating your policy at the entrance of your facility and elsewhere and training and educating appropriate personnel about the policy and how to enforce it. The policy should also be reviewed and updated regularly as laws and regulations change.
A Risk Management and Security Mandate
A clear policy on guns in the workplace is a necessity in today’s world — it’s a risk management, HR, security and legal essential.
While ensuring a proper policy requires a company to take a “position” on a potentially polarizing issue, it also enables them to ensure proper consideration of workplace security issues — and sound risk management. &