No Right to Bear Arms on Employer Property

By James Hatch

May. 12, 2006

Weyerhaeuser Co. operated a paper mill in Oklahoma for which Kellogg, Brown & Root and Kenny Industrial provided contract maintenance employees. Weyerhaeuser policy barred employees from having firearms on company property and in employee parking areas. KBR and Kenny policies prohibited employee firearms anywhere on customers’ property and required compliance with customers’ policies.

   In October 2002, Weyerhaeuser used search dogs to identify vehicles that might contain drugs. A number of employees admitted having firearms in their vehicles and consented to a search of their cars. Weyerhaeuser, KBR and Kenny fired their employees found with firearms or drugs in their vehicles.

   Eight workers sued Weyerhaeuser, alleging violations of the Oklahoma state constitution, the state gun-possession law and various common-law claims. That state’s constitution provides that the “right of a citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person or property … shall never be prohibited.” The Oklahoma Self-Defense Act (OSDA) empowered employers, among others, “to control the possession of weapons on any property (they) owned,” but a 2004 amendment to that act permitted the storage of guns in locked vehicles.

   Upon appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver found that there was no violation of the employees’ rights under state law, in part because the OSDA 2004 amendment was not retroactive. Bastible v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 10th Cir., No. 05-7037 (2/13/06).

    Impact: Employers should carefully research current legal restrictions and employee rights, especially concerning privacy, before conducting any search of their employees, including private vehicles.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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