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WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

What about guns in cars in the parking lot?

By Lynne Curry

Question:

Our office takes threats of violence seriously. We prohibit any act or threat of violence by or against any client, staffer, supplier, or visitor. Our policy applies to all employees, whether on or off company property.

We specifically state that we prohibit any use or possession, whether legal or illegal, of weapons on company property or while on business for our practice.

In our rural practice some of our employees use their personal vehicles for office business. We pay them $200 a month to compensate them. Can we enforce the no firearms policy for their vehicle while travelling for our office?

Answer:

According to Perkins Coie Senior Counsel Michael O’Brien, “Your company can enforce a no firearms policy while your employees are on company time. Because your employees’ cars are unlikely to be characterized as company property, a blanket ban on having weapons in the vehicle, even during off hours, is unlikely to be enforceable. But you can prohibit having firearms in the vehicle during the workday or during any time that could be construed as work time is reasonable.”

Attorney Charles Krugel adds that state or municipal laws may support your policy, particularly if your state honors the employment at will doctrine, which gives you the right to terminate an employee for any or no reason as long as you don’t violate public policy.

Says Krugel, “Factors weighing in favor of your company being able to enforce your policy include the $200 monthly compensation as consideration for not carrying firearms while doing company business.” At the same time, Krugel notes that since your employees drive their own vehicles, “the $200 allowance may not be sufficient consideration to waive your employees’ right to carry firearms in their own car.”

Krugel suggests adding a memo to your policy that your employees sign that acknowledges that the $200 monthly stipend is sufficient consideration for them to agree to your policy. He also notes that if “employees live or work in ‘bad’ neighborhoods where it’s reasonable for them to possess firearms or if they’ve been attacked or robbed in the past, and have permits for their firearms, your company’s prohibition may be seen as contrary to public policy or even in violation of workplace safety. If so, your policy may be unenforceable unless your employees receive sufficient consideration for waiving their right to possess firearms, such as proper training, extra security, or even protective tactical gear.”

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