Regulating Guns in the Workplace

This January, Ohio adopted a firearm regulation commonly referred to as a parking lot law.  The law’s core provision prevents both private and public employers from enforcing workplace policies that prohibit employees with concealed carry permits from keeping their firearms in their cars while in employer parking lots.  Ohio’s law is not the first of its kind.  Oklahoma was the first state to pass a parking lot law; it amended existing legislation in 2004 to protect firearm owners from prohibitions on firearms in workplace parking lots.  As of 2016, more than 20 states have enacted similar parking lot provisions.  Passed in response to robust lobbying campaigns by gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association, parking lot laws vary in the level of protection they offer gun owners, but most prohibit employers from asking employees if they own guns, and prohibit employers from firing employees because they own firearms.  These laws are frequently in conflict with existing workplace policies, which often limit employee’s ability to bring firearms to work.  These types of laws pose major questions about an employer’s ability create comprehensive health and safety policies.  On purely legal grounds, it is difficult to conclusively say that state legislatures’ regulation of guns in the workplace is impermissible.  However, parking lots laws undoubtedly raise significant questions about how much discretion employers should have in regulating employee conduct.

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