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State Laws Concerning Guns in Company Parking Lots Likely to Resurface

Employers in several states successfully fought off or stalled the implementation of such laws throughout 2012, often by arguing that employee safety, private property rights and workers' compensation costs are at stake.

December 17, 2012
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Policies and Procedures, Legal, Latest News
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State laws that would restrict employers from prohibiting workers from taking firearms onto company parking lots likely will surface again when their legislatures convene beginning in January, observers said Dec. 17.

Employers in several states successfully fought off or stalled the implementation of such laws throughout 2012, often by arguing that employee safety, private property rights and workers' compensation costs are at stake.

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, for example, helped fend off a bill that would have made it illegal for employers to maintain a policy of prohibiting the storing of firearms in an employee's locked vehicle.

"We are prepared to see that legislation again," said Darrell Scott, vice president of public policy and communications for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, S.C. "The National Rifle Association has been very aggressive in trying to pass this same bill in other states. I imagine in every state where it didn't pass, those states can anticipate seeing the legislation again."

Bradley Jackson, vice president of government and community affairs for the Nashville, Tennessee-based Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said he, too, expects to see similar legislation resurface in his state.

Gun advocates introduced two bills in Tennessee during 2012, Jackson said. One would have prohibited employers from restricting firearms in parking areas; another would have created a cause of action allowing employees to sue employers if they perceived they were discriminated against because they are gun owners, Jackson said.

But a coalition including employers, police chiefs and universities helped defeat the legislation, Jackson said.

The issue of whether employers can restrict guns in locked cars parked on company property has been a frequent source of tension between Second Amendment advocates and employers over the past several years.

Advocates, who have won victories in several states, argue such laws are necessary so gun owners can protect themselves from crime potentially encountered during commutes.

Nearly 20 states have adopted laws since 2003 that ban employers from restricting guns in their parking lots, according to the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Other states where lawmakers introduced similar legislation in 2011 or 2012 included Alabama and Pennsylvania.

The potential for workplace disputes to escalate into violence when guns are involved is among employer concerns, Jackson said.

Across the country, the share of workplace homicides attributed to "associates" grew from 9 percent in 1997 to 21 percent in 2009, according to a report on workplace violence released in January 2012 by Boca Raton, Florida-based NCCI Holdings Inc.

But NCCI's report is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which defines associates as co-workers and business customers. The share of homicides due to co-workers has remained steady at about 12 percent, while the share of those perpetrated by customers, such as those in drinking establishments has risen, NCCI reported.

NCCI concluded that most workplace homicides "are not crimes of passion committed by disgruntled co-workers and spouses, but rather result from robberies."

The majority of workplace assaults, meanwhile, are committed by health care patients.

Roberto Ceniceros writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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