by Al Vreeland
In these pages, we try―often ham-handedly―to infuse a little humor into the very real workplace dilemmas you face on a daily basis. When we first conceived this article, obvious redneck gun jokes were, well, obvious. But the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has left us humorless, while recent events in several state capitals have left us dumbfounded. Multiple state legislatures are considering a law that would give employees the right to bring guns onto their employer’s property―regardless of the employer’s policy. That is a very, very bad idea.
What’s all the fuss about?
Politicians attach names to legislation that are hard to oppose, such as the Freedom, Fairness, and Fuzzy Kitten Act. When it comes to guns at work, proponents call it a “parking lot” law. It would require employers to allow employees to keep guns only in their cars on the employer’s property. What could possibly go wrong with that? A lot. Few employers have TSA-level security screening in their facilities; a gun in the parking lot is just a few quick steps from becoming a gun in a supervisor’s face.
As our readers know, most folks define themselves by their work. When asked about themselves, people’s first response usually involves their occupation and, sometimes, whom they work for. Most employees are proud of what they do, and almost all believe they’re good at what they do, even if they aren’t. As a consequence, when employees fall short at work, they take it very personally. They may consider their self-worth under attack and, more important, their ability to provide for their family at risk. Unfortunately for some, the insult to their dignity may be too much and lead to a violent response.
According to Representative Craig Ford, who sponsored the Alabama guns-at-work bill, “You’re not violating a person’s property rights just by keeping a gun locked in your vehicle.” We wonder if Representative Ford would like to be standing in an HR manager’s office when an employee who just got sacked is within a few yards of his car―which happens to contain a loaded weapon. The car may be locked, but a very angry ex-employee has the keys to it.
In our view, the Legislature has no business telling employers they must allow guns on their property. That decision should be left to each employer’s judgment. They know their workforce. For some, safety during the work commute may be a valid concern. Others may leave directly from work and head to the hunting camp during deer season. But for many employers, it may not be worth the risk when a gun in a glove box makes the short trip up the sidewalk and into a manager’s office.
Al Vreeland is a founding member and Managing Shareholder Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland in Birmingham, Alabama, where the state’s Senate is currently considering legislation that would prevent most employers from barring workers from transporting and storing firearms and ammo at work. Al has represented employers in the entire range of employment litigation from Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, OSHA and ERISA to claims under the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About: Alabama Employment Law Letter:|
Excerpted from Alabama Employment Law Letter, and written by attorneys at the law firm of Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland, P.C. The Alabama State Bar requires the following disclosure: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." Contact the attorneys at Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland, P.C.