Indiana has joined the ranks of those states enacting laws limiting an employer’s ability to ban firearms and ammunition on the employer’s property. Late last week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law legislation that protects an employee’s ability to bring a firearm to work, as long as the weapon is kept out of sight and locked inside a vehicle.
Specifically, the new law prohibits an employer from adopting or enforcing a policy or rule that prohibits an employee from legally possessing a firearm or ammunition that is (1) locked in the trunk of the employee’s vehicle, (2) kept in the glove compartment of the employee’s locked vehicle, or (3) stored out of plain sight in the employee’s locked vehicle. Of course, employers may still prohibit any employee who may not legally possess a firearm from bringing it on company property.
The new law contains several exceptions that may allow an employer to prohibit an employee from possessing a firearm or ammunition on the property of a school, a child care institution, a group home, an approved postsecondary educational institution, a domestic violence shelter, or a private residence, among other places.
Any employee who believes that his or her employer has violated the new law may file a civil lawsuit and, if successful, recover actual damages and court costs. Significantly, an employee who prevails in such a lawsuit will also be entitled to recover attorney’s fees.
The new law takes effect on July 1, 2010. Indiana employers that have handbooks, policies, or other rules specifically prohibiting the possession of firearms anywhere on their property should consider revising their policies in light of this legislation.
While many employers are dissatisfied with the new law and believe that it impacts their ability to ensure a safe workplace, they should recognize that they will still be able to strictly ban firearms inside the workplace. Additionally, employers will still be able to enact and enforce policies strictly prohibiting any form of violence or threats of violence in the workplace. As employers review their handbooks and policies for compliance with the new law, they may also want to consider reviewing and strengthening any policies prohibiting workplace violence.
Several other states have enacted similar laws prohibiting employers from banning firearms in locked vehicles, including Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.
For additional information, please contact a member of Taft’s Labor and Employment Department.