Business Viewpoint: Employers need policies regarding open carry law
BY RANDALL SNAPP Business Viewspoint
Thursday, February 28, 2013
2/28/13 at 3:32 AM
Recent Oklahoma legislation allows citizens across our state to openly and publicly carry guns. This raises a number of considerations, especially from the perspective of business owners.
Guns can be a controversial subject, but employers should consider implementing policies regarding firearms in order to maintain a safe workplace for employees and customers alike.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 1733 allows individuals who are licensed to carry a firearm under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act the option of either carrying a handgun openly or concealing it. Commonly referred to as the "open carry" law, this legislation became law on Nov. 1.
Regardless of personal opinion on the issue of gun control, this legislation raises serious questions for business owners as to whether their employees and customers can be prohibited from openly carrying firearms on the property of the business. The short answer is that they can.
The law includes specific exceptions that prohibit the open carrying of firearms on properties owned or leased by the city, state or federal government, in schools or on college campuses, and at correctional facilities. This restriction also applies to liquor stores and sports arenas during sporting events.
In addition, there is nothing in Oklahoma's new law that prevents a private business owner or employer from establishing and enforcing any policy that prohibits individuals from carrying guns onto their premises.
If an employer wishes to prohibit the open carry of guns in the workplace, there are several steps that should be taken. Signage should be placed prominently in the workplace, and the signage should explicitly put employees and the public on notice that no weapons, including firearms, are allowed within the place of business.
Employers should also implement a weapons/gun policy, immediately distribute it to all employees and require all employees to sign an acknowledgement that they received the policy. The policy should be incorporated into employee training sessions, included in the employee handbook or personnel manual, and the consequences for violating the policy should also be made clear.
At a minimum, the policy should prohibit employees from bringing handguns or other weapons onto the employer's premises. Consequences for violating the policy may include disciplinary action up to and including termination.
For employers who already have policies prohibiting weapons in the workplace, employees should be notified that the current policy is still in place and is not affected by the new law.
There is one important caveat. While private employers can prohibit employees and customers from bringing handguns onto their premises, they may not prohibit them from keeping a firearm or ammunition locked in their car in the parking lot of the business.
The future may likely hold additional changes and further debate on gun safety, but Oklahoma businesses should make their policies on firearms clear to employees and to the public as soon as possible.
Original Print Headline: Policies needed regarding open carry law
Randall Snapp is a director with Crowe & Dunlevy in its Tulsa office and co-chair of the firm's Labor and Employment Practice Group. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the Tulsa World. To inquire about writing a Business Viewpoint column, email a short outline of the article to Business Editor John Stancavage at email@example.com. The column should focus on a business trend; the outlook for the city, state or an industry; or a topic of interest in an area of the writer's expertise. Articles should not promote a business or be overly political in nature.