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WORKPLACE SAFETY

Are there guns in your workplace?

By Lynne Curry

If you think the national division over guns hasn’t hit your workplace, you haven’t been listening. Not only are the employees who advocate for increased gun control, including a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15, engaged in an active argument with those who argue for fewer restrictions on gun owners’ ability to carry concealed firearms—but some of your coworkers or employees may be packing.

Does your employee handbook address whether your employer allows employees or non-employees to bring guns onto worksites?

What about whether employees can keep guns in their cars or trucks?

The concealed handgun permit statues in many states don’t address whether those legally permitted to own guns can bring them to work or carry them into others’ workplaces. Instead, it’s up to employers to decide whether to prohibit employees and others from bringing a firearm into a secure, restricted access area, such as a work area (like the cubicle next to yours) by posting a conspicuous and clearly worded notice.

Employers may generally also prohibit employees from leaving firearms in their vehicles if they park in an employer-owned or controlled lot that is within 300 feet of their restricted work access area and not open to the public.

But what if those employees need their guns for personal off-duty reasons, such as hunting or commuting safety? And what if those carrying guns in their parked car or on their person could protect others and prevent death should an active shooter arrive?

Here’s what employers need to consider:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers need to provide a work environment free of recognized hazards to employee health and safety. This “General Duty Clause” requires employers to take steps to reduce the risk of harm.

Employers need to realize that they may be vicariously liable for wrongful acts by an employee who shoots another when “acting in the course and scope of employment.”

While an employee who acts violently generally acts outside the scope of employment, what if an armed employee attacks a coworker and the employer knew the first employee had a temper but took no precautions? Could the employer be sued for negligence?

If you’re an employer worried by this post, you may wonder if you can arrange insurance to protect your company. If you allow guns in your workplace, let your liability insurer know and ask them so you’ll know whether you have insurance protection. Unfortunately, they may cancel your policy or increase your rates due to the increased liability risks.

Has the national division over guns hit your workplace? Of course it has.

Sign up here for Lynne Curry’s Jan. 19 webinar on Navigating Conflict. It’s free for members of Law Office Manager. Lynne Curry, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and author of “Navigating Conflict” (Business Experts Press, 2022); “Managing for Accountability (BEP, 2021); “Beating the Workplace Bully,” AMACOM 2016, and “Solutions” is President of Communication Works, Inc. and founder of www.workplacecoachblog.com, which offers more than 400 articles on topics such as leadership, COVID, management, HR, and personal and professional development.  Curry has qualified in Court as an expert witness in Management Best Practices, HR and Workplace issues. You can reach her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her @lynnecurry10 on twitter.

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