Of course, it’s nearly impossible for employers to stop a random mass shooter. But it’s always prudent to take any steps available within the law to maintain a safe workplace.
Workplace safety has become a growing concern for employers across the U.S.
In the wake of active shooters and gun law discussions at the federal level, employers may be considering how they can make their workplaces more secure — both for employees and customers.
Maintaining a safe workplace, especially for multi-jurisdiction employers, can be a challenge. There are several factors to consider:
State workplace gun laws
Company policies for weapons and safety
Preventing guns on the premises
Resources for potential workplace issues
Of course, it’s nearly impossible for employers to stop a random mass shooter. But it’s always prudent to take any steps available within the law to maintain a safe workplace, which is, of course, required under federal law.
Below is a look at several of the considerations for employers when it comes guns in the workplace and overall safety.
State Workplace Gun Laws
Starting with the basics, state workplace gun laws across the country vary widely — and some employers may be surprised how many states have passed legislation giving employees leeway for guns at work.
Plus, it’s worth noting that homicide is among the leading causes of workplace fatalities in the country.
About half of U.S. states have laws regarding the right of employees to possess guns on employers’ property. Mostly, these laws don’t apply to the workplace itself. Instead, most focus on cars and parking lots — which can still present issues for employers
Many states have laws allowing employees to bring their guns to work, giving licensed carriers the right to bring weapons, albeit limited to vehicles and lots.
However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) clearly allows employers to take measures to ensure a safe and secure workplace. Just because many states allow employees to bring guns “to work” doesn’t mean employers must allow employees to carry guns at the worksite.
In Indiana, for example, legal firearms owners can keep a gun in their trunk or glove compartment, so long as it’s locked in a space or out of sight, though there are exceptions, including schools and shelters. Still, the law still allows employers to bar guns in the workplace.
Employers should review the state workplace gun laws where they have locations to ensure compliance and align company policies and procedures.
All this leads to the steps employers can take to limit weapons in the workplace, including those of customers.
Gun Signage – Texas, Specifically
One of the more stringent laws regarding how employers can limit guns in the workplace is in Texas.
In the fall of 2021, Texas passed a law that said individuals do not need a license or permit to carry a gun. This, of course, led to compliance issues for employers with locations in the Lone Star State.
Employers can still ban guns on-site, but new signage was required.
Previously, employers needed two different signs — one regarding conceal and carry and another related to open carry. Now, third poster must be displayed — barring the unlicensed carry of guns on the premises.
Employers can find details on the three new postings needed under Texas penal code:
The signage has specific language requirements, as well as font, color and size conditions. And they must be displayed in both in English and Spanish. Also, two of the posters need to be displayed at entrances to the building.
Meanwhile, Texas bars (establishments with 51 percent or more of their income from alcohol) have different signage requirements, including the need for a warning saying possession of a handgun on this premises is unlawful.
Employers with locations in Texas should consider company philosophy and intent, and align it with the posting requirements.
Postings on Workplace Safety
While employers may opt to post signage banning guns from the workplace — or be required to by law — there are other steps they can take regarding violence at their locations.
Violence in the workplace can take many forms. Providing postings to communicate a zero-tolerance policy is generally a good idea.
As a sample:
Workplace violence is conduct that threatens, intimidates, or harasses another employee, customer, or member of the public at work or on duty. This includes all acts of harassment, including harassment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, ethnicity, citizenship status, genetic information, military status, age, disability, or any other classification protected by applicable local, state, or federal laws.
Examples of prohibited workplace violence include, but are not limited to:
Using or threatening to use a weapon against an individual
Hitting, shoving, or otherwise assaulting an individual
Bullying or threatening an individual or the individual’s family, friends, associates, or property with harm
Intentional destruction or threatening to destroy the employer’s or other individuals’ property
Making harassing or threatening contact through phone calls or other means
Harassing, surveillance, or stalking
No form of workplace violence will be tolerated.
All suspicious individuals or activities should be reported as soon as possible to a supervisor. If more immediate action is needed, call 911.
This type of posting can help remind workers of proper conduct, circumvent potential issues and provide a potential buffer against litigation.
Concerns About Employees
As stated above, it’s difficult for employers to prevent rogue violence. But there are steps to take, especially related to violence from employees.
Best practices include:
Having a policy – zero tolerance for workplace violence
Understanding the policy
Understanding potential warning signs
How to report concerns
Identifying a team to handle issues if an event occurs
Implement hiring practices to reduce risk of hiring violent offenders
Signage banning weapons on the premises
Workplace shootings, regardless of where they happen, can also impact the workforce. After such instances, employers may consider having discussions about the news, remind employees of company policies, reiterate how employees can report concerns and reassure workers that their safety is of the utmost importance.
When an employee does exhibit behavior that raises concerns, employers should be proactive:
Talk with the employee
Be candid and up front about the behavior/conduct that is concerning and expectations
Keep the conversation objective and non-judgmental
Ask employee for their perspective
Determine if the employee should be removed from the workplace
Make sure employee understands policy
Give the individual employee-assistance-program information (if available)
Remind employee of inappropriate behavior and expectations going forward
Document and follow up
Does the matter need to be discussed with anyone else?
By educating employees and getting ahead of potential issues, employers can
Even as Congress debates new gun-safety laws, employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace.
Clearly, there are limits on what a company can do. But ensuring compliance with local laws, being proactive on potential issues, and generally being cognizant of violence on the job are paramount.
This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.
GovDocs simplifies employment law compliance for large, multi-jurisdiction employers in the U.S. and Canada. The GovDocs software platform integrates three solutions in one convenient place to help you master the employment laws impacting your business. Whether you manage a postings, minimum wage or paid leave program, our products cut through research time, provide proactive insights into the everchanging landscape of employment laws and reduce the risk of noncompliance. The company is headquartered in Eagan, Minn.