New Gun Law Allowing Employees to Store Guns in Locked Vehicles in Employers’ Parking Lots Takes Effect September 30
A new law going into effect in Arizona on September 30, 2009 should cause both Arizona employers, and employers throughout the country, to update their policies and practices relating to guns at work and workplace violence. The new Arizona law is one of several recently enacted laws in states across the country that significantly restrict the ability of employers to completely ban guns at work and make it much more challenging to manage this difficult issue.
On July 13, 2009 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a new law restricting the ability of Arizona employers to prevent employees from storing lawfully owned firearms in locked vehicles in the employer’s parking lot. With some limited exceptions, beginning on September 30 an Arizona employer will not be able to prohibit an employee from storing a lawfully owned gun in a privately owned car parked in the employer’s parking lot. As a result, Arizona employers should review and update their policies in order to both comply with the new law and maintain their remaining rights under the new law. This law should also prompt employers to consider appropriate training for supervisors concerning guns at work and how to manage and limit workplace violence.
Specifics of the New Law
Arizona’s new law prohibits property owners, tenants, and public and private employers from forbidding employees, as well as other individuals such as visitors and customers, from transporting or storing any lawfully possessed firearm that is in a locked and privately owned vehicle or in a locked compartment on a privately owned motorcycle and that is not visible from outside the vehicle or motorcycle. Any policy attempting to go beyond the law’s restrictions is null and void.
Certain exceptions to the new law permit an employer to ban firearms in its parking lot. Specifically, the employer may ban firearms in vehicles in its parking lot if it provides a parking lot or garage secured by a fence or other physical barrier, limits access to the area by a guard or other security measure, and provides temporary, monitored and secure storage for firearms and ready access for employees to retrieve their firearms when they leave the premises. The law also permits employers to ban the storage of guns in employer-owned vehicles used by employees as part of their jobs. The new law does not apply if another federal or state law prohibits the employee from storing a gun in the vehicle.
Recent National Trend of "Guns-at-Work" Laws
With this new law, Arizona joins a growing list of states that recently have passed workplace parking lot gun laws including Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah. Laws protecting employee access to firearms at work appear to be a national trend that was bolstered by a federal appeals court decision early this year in which the court determined that federal law – specifically OSHA’s requirement that employers maintain a safe workplace – did not invalidate Oklahoma’s parking lot law.
Unlike similar parking lot gun laws passed in several other states, the Arizona law does not contain any restrictions on the ability of an employer to search an employee's vehicle for firearms if the vehicle is located in the company's parking lot. If the employer, therefore, has a policy notifying employees that the employer may search personal property on the company’s property, including employees’ vehicles, private Arizona employers may search an employee's vehicle for weapons when it is parked on company property. Of course, employers should carefully consider all of the facts and surrounding circumstances before conducting such a search and should seriously consider whether or not to contact law enforcement.
To both comply with this new law and maintain their rights under the law, Arizona employers, as well as employers throughout the country, should consider each of the following steps:
- Review and update employee handbooks and other policies:
- Make sure there are no policies that improperly ban employees’ storage of lawfully owned firearms in vehicles on the employer’s property.
- Require that all vehicles in which lawfully possessed firearms are stored in the employer’s parking lot are locked at all times.
- Include a strong policy against workplace violence, setting forth conduct that will not be tolerated and steps employees should take to report any threatening or violent behavior.
- Consider including a policy permitting the employer to search private property on the employer’s premises, to include vehicles parked in the employer’s parking lot.
- Consider providing training on workplace violence including how to reduce the potential for workplace violence and the appropriate actions to take when confronted with a potentially threatening or violent situation.
- Review and update safety and security measures to address increased risk of violence associated with the presence of guns on company property.
For more information about compliance with the new law or Arizona employment law generally, please contact your principal Squire Sanders lawyer or one of the individuals listed in this Alert.