Gun Possession and Employer Rights Under State Laws

By James Denis

Sep. 1, 2008

On April 10, Florida approved a bill that prevents employers from asking workers if they carry guns in their cars, from searching employee vehicles, from taking action against workers for possessing guns in locked vehicles, and from conditioning employment on whether a job applicant holds a “concealed-carry” gun permit.

The Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups challenged the law, asserting that it was unconstitutional because it violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act by endangering workers and because it forced property owners to make their property available for unsupported purposes. The business groups sought a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Denying in part and granting in part the preliminary injunction, the district court refused to block the law’s provisions that limit an employer’s right to ask an employee about the presence of a gun in his or her car at work, search employee vehicles for guns, or condition employment on whether an applicant holds a “concealed-carry” permit.

The district court found that the law was not an unconstitutional taking because the law did not affect an employer’s right to continue to operate a business. The only change created by the law was that “if a business chooses to provide parking, the business may not keep guns from being secured in a vehicle.” Florida Retail Fed’n Inc. v. Attorney General of Fla., N.D. Fla., No. 4:08-CV-179-RH/WCS, preliminary injunction (7/28/08).

    Impact:Several states have laws that protect the right of individuals to possess guns at work. In this case—at least in Florida—employers are advised to follow an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning whether an employee has a gun in a locked vehicle at work.

Workforce Management, September 8, 2008, p. 19Subscribe Now!

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