In January, New York passed strong firearm legislation which restricted the type of guns that can be sold in the state as well as the qualifications for purchase of a firearm. However, the law did not address the issue of guns in and around the workplace.
New York and eighteen other states do not have any explicit statutes which restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit workers for carrying firearms into the workplace or storing them in vehicles parked on company property. The District of Columbia and 23 states permit employer bans on carrying firearms in the workplace but not necessarily on the ability to leave them in vehicles parked on company property. In contrast, 19 states permit such storage and prohibit employers from creating policies which would restrict or ban such storage.
However, interestingly, the NY law, called SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) does require mental health professionals to report a patient to the county’s director of community services if there is reason to believe that the patient is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others. The law does not impose penalties on those who do not report so long as that decision was made reasonably and in good faith.
The law does not impose any obligations on employees or employers, per se. If you, as an employer, have concerns about the potential for workers to carry firearms while at work or to leave them in cars on company property, this can be addressed in your employee handbook. Certainly, in some industries, there may be circumstances under which you may find it reasonable or appropriate for your workers to carry firearms. Regardless of your personal feelings about the 2nd amendment right to bear arms and whether government should be entitled to limit that right in any way, the issue is an important one. In the wake of the tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado, among others, this may be a good time to evaluate your policies, if any, or to amend your employee manual to reflect rules with respect to firearms in the workplace. My concern is two-fold: that workers be presented with and acknowledge receipt of any applicable employer rules but, additionally, that in articulating a set of rules in this regard, the employer is able to establish operating principles and demonstrate its awareness. Only Idaho has provided immunity to an employer which permits firearm storage or carrying in the workplace as a matter of law. However, I think that any employer which addresses the issue head-on with reference to its business needs, 2nd amendment principles or both, in a pro-active manner will demonstrate good faith and reasonableness. Undoubtedly, this is a very sensitive subject about which individuals, in our system of government, have the right to differ. The potential exists for further regulation affecting firearms in the workplace. Of course, any such regulations are likely to be subject to challenges in the courts. This is an opportune time to begin a dialogue at the managerial level and, perhaps, with your employees as well.