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Ask the Attorney: Labor Law Posting Requirements and Weapons in the Workplace

11/14/2017
Weapons in the Workplace posting requirements.

Ashley Kaplan, Esq., who heads the expert legal team behind Poster Guard® Compliance Protection, answers questions about weapons in the private workplace and discusses related posting requirements for businesses to remain compliant.

Q: I’m a small business owner who would like to completely ban guns in the workplace and associated property. Can I do this, and if so, how?

Ashley: It really depends on your state and local laws. Just because you want to doesn’t mean you can. Although no federal law regulates weapons at work, several states have enacted some form of guns-at-work laws — and they vary greatly. Some states allow employers to totally ban weapons at work, including company parking lots. Others have passed laws that permit employees to store guns in their cars, and many states only allow such prohibitions if the proper notices are posted.

Q: I’m concerned about weapons at work but don’t want to infringe on my employees’ Second Amendment rights. How do I balance the two?

Ashley: Thirty-one states have enacted some sort of weapons-in-the-workplace legislation. As I mentioned, many of these laws allow business owners to ban weapons inside the workplace but don’t allow them to prohibit employees from storing them in their vehicles. To protect your employees’ rights, you must know which laws apply to your state. This can be especially tricky if your business operates across state lines where the laws differ.

It’s also important to note that laws for private employers may be different from those for government agencies. Different rules may apply to schools, hospitals, and federal and state-owned buildings.

Q: Explain what a “parking lot” law is and how it differs from a complete ban on weapons in the workplace?

Ashley: If your business is in one of 23 states with “parking lot” laws, you can prohibit employees from carrying weapons into company buildings, but you can’t prevent them from bringing a weapon to work in their vehicle. However, in these parking lot states, there are typically restrictions on how the employees must store their guns inside vehicles.

For example, many require that the gun be lawfully possessed, that the vehicle is operated or parked in a specific location, that the vehicle is not provided by the business, and that the gun is stored in a locked compartment or container when the employee isn’t inside the vehicle.

Posting requirements depend on the state where your business is. Some states, like Texas, allow employers to bar employees from carrying a weapon into work but require certain notices in both English and Spanish. The signs must be posted at each entrance, and they must follow specific color, style and font size guidelines. Separate signs are required for gun owners with open-carry licenses.

Q: My business is in a state that allows employers to completely ban weapons at work. Is it adequate to notify my employees of this policy by email?

Ashley: It’s important to have a written policy in place — and to reinforce the policy with proper employee-facing signage. Whether your state allows you to establish your own rules about weapons at work or imposes specific gun regulations, it’s important to clearly convey the rules to everyone.

Make sure to draft your policy to match state law. If your business is in a “parking lot” state, explain how the weapons are to be stored and whether you have a special restricted parking area guarded by security that’s exempt from the rule.

In general, policies should be distributed in whatever manner is effective for your workplace. If all of your policies are communicated via email and all employees regularly access email for their jobs, that is fine. Whether you distribute your policies electronically or in printed format, it’s always a good idea to have your employees acknowledge receipt of the policies and to keep signed acknowledgments in their personnel files.

Q: Do “parking lot” laws apply to company-owned cars?

Ashley: Typically they do not, but always check your state laws. The law will specify if it applies only to employee-owned cars or if it includes company-owned cars. Depending on the law, you might not be able to prohibit an employee from storing a gun in his or her own personal vehicle, but you can make company-owned vehicles off limits. Again, it’s essential that you verify what your own state law requires. Many states require specific signage to enforce restrictions, but others don’t. You also have to be careful not to overstep the law. For example, if your state allows employees to store weapons in their vehicles at work, you can’t completely ban weapons in the parking lot, because that would be interfering with state law.

Q: What’s the easiest way to track the weapons at work posting requirements specific to our state?

Ashley: Poster Guard® Compliance Protection offers a complete “No Weapons” posting service that provides the correct postings for all 50 states. The service guarantees the right signage with the necessary size, font, colors and wording to comply with the laws of each state. If you’re in a state that permits a generic “no weapons” sign, you’ll be covered as well. If you’re already a Poster Guard customer, the “No Weapons” posting service is an add-on service and only necessary if you want to prohibit weapons on the premises. Just to clarify, these are only mandatory posting requirements if you WANT to prohibit weapons at work. “No Weapons” posters aren’t considered mandatory on their own.