Building upon his signing of a law last year allowing employees to lawfully possess firearms and ammunition on company property if locked in their parked cars out of plain sight, Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels signed a new law on April 20, 2011, furthering protection for gun owners and users. In essence, the new law prohibits both public and private employers and potential employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on their lawful ownership, possession, storage, transportation, or use of firearms or ammunition.
Under the new law, employers and potential employers cannot inquire into whether a job applicant or employee owns, possesses, uses, or transports firearms or ammunition. There is one exception to this rule: employers and potential employers are allowed to request disclosure of such information when the employee will possess, use, or transport a firearm or ammunition in fulfilling the duties of his employment.
Moreover, employers and potential employers cannot condition employment, or any rights, benefits, privileges, or opportunities offered by employment, on an agreement that the job applicant or employee forego lawful ownership, possession, storage, transportation, or use of a firearm or ammunition or other rights granted under the law.
The law creates a civil cause of action allowing individuals to sue public and private employers, as well as public officials whom they believe have violated the law. The law explicitly states that the Indiana Tort Claims Act will not protect public employers or officials from civil damage suits.
An employer or potential employer found to have violated the law can face penalties, including injunctive relief and actual damages, court costs and attorney’s fees. For knowing and willful violations, the law allows prevailing plaintiffs to recover punitive damages.
The new law does not prohibit employers from adopting or otherwise enforcing policies regulating or prohibiting the possession or carrying of firearms on employer property or while an employee is performing work duties, as long as employers do not run afoul of the 2010 law.
The new law takes effect July 1, 2011.
Employers with operations in Indiana should consult with legal counsel for assistance in reviewing and drafting policies that are in compliance with these laws. For more information about this new law, please contact any member of Taft's Indianapolis Labor & Employment Practice Group.