Firearms in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

 

Bill Wills spoke to Tim Dimoff, CEO/PresidentSACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc about his article on Firearms in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Firearms in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

With workplace violence and shootings on the rise, it’s crucial for business owners to outline firearm policies for their employees. In order to do so, employers must know the laws regarding employee possession of firearms. Read on as we unpack these laws and detail potential scenarios that could trigger this type of violence.

Know the law

While employers are not generally liable for crimes committed by their employees, they could bear some liability for crimes committed by employees who have guns at work. This falls under negligent hiring, supervision or retention; worker’s compensation; or the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). What’s most important here is if the employer knows or should have known of an employee’s violent tendencies and that the employee possessed a firearm. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Every employer should have a thorough understanding of federal and state laws regarding firearms in the workplace and consulting with an attorney on these matters is highly recommended.

Approximately half of all states, including Ohio, have statutes that require employers to allow employees to store firearms in their own personal vehicle. However, employers can restrict employees from storing weapons in company-owned vehicles. They can also restrict firearms from coming into their place of business, but they cannot prohibit firearms from being locked in a car in the parking lot.

All workplaces, regardless of their size, should have a firearms policy in their employee handbook or company manual. While policies restricting an employee’s ability to possess a firearm at their place of employment or during work time can help to protect other employees and the employer from liability, employers should also be aware of state laws that protect an employee’s right to possess firearms.

Currently, prohibiting employees from carrying a firearm on his or her person while working or from having guns in the employer’s workplace is permissible in every state. However, laws do vary from state to state, so prohibiting employees from having firearms in their personal vehicles—even in a company parking lot—and discriminating against gun owners in hiring or in regard to the terms and conditions of employment can result in liability in many states. As mentioned earlier, employers should seek advice from competent legal counsel when drafting their policies limiting employees’ ability to possess guns.

Be aware of triggers

In addition to instituting firearms policies, and since employees depend on their employer to provide a safe workplace within the confines of state and federal laws, all employers should be aware of potential situations or scenarios that might be of concern such as:

  • a disgruntled employee who was recently fired;
  • a co-worker with substance abuse issues and/or mental illness;
  • volatile events (i.e., strikes, protests); and
  • an employee having marital or custody issues

These can be triggers for workplace violence and workplace shootings. Therefore, employers should always follow these three steps to provide a safe work environment:

Step No. 1: Acknowledge employees’ concerns for safety.

Step No. 2: Establish clear gun policies and procedures for the workplace.

Step No. 3: Educate employees on safety measures in place for their protection.

Employers who follow all the above steps can help to avert a potentially tragic situation. 

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

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