On March 21, 2017, a new gun law went into effect in Ohio that expands the rights of concealed carry permit holders, allows active-duty members of the armed forces to carry weapons without a concealed carry license if certain conditions are met, and broadens the scope of places where those permit holders may carry their firearms. But what does this new law mean for Ohio employers and the workplace?
New Law May Require Revisions to Workplace Policies
Under Ohio’s new gun law, individuals with valid concealed carry licenses will now have the right to bring their licensed firearms onto the exterior premises of a company, such as the parking lot – a practice currently prohibited by many employers in their weapons policies.
More specifically, under the new law, employers may no longer have a policy that bans an individual with a valid concealed carry license from transporting or storing a firearm and/or ammunition inside his or her privately owned motor vehicle, provided the following conditions are met:
- When the permit holder is absent from the vehicle, the firearm and/or ammunition must be locked in the trunk, glove box or another enclosed compartment of the person’s vehicle.
- When the permit holder is present in the vehicle, the firearm and/or ammunition must remain within the vehicle.
- The permit holder’s vehicle must be parked in a permitted location.
It is important to know that state law provides immunity for Ohio employers that choose to allow – or prohibit – licensed handguns on the premises. Under the terms of state statute:
A private employer shall be immune from liability in a civil action for any injury, death or loss to person or property that allegedly was caused by or related to a licensee bringing a handgun onto the premises or property of the private employer, including motor vehicles owned by the private employer, unless the private employer acted with malicious purpose. A private employer is immune from liability in a civil action for any injury, death or loss to person or property that allegedly was caused by or related to the private employer’s decision to permit a licensee to bring, or prohibit a licensee from bringing, a handgun onto the premises or property of the private employer. O.R.C. §2923.126(C)(2)(a).
What Should Ohio Employers Do Now?
As a result, employers will need to review and update their policies to comply with the new state law. Effective March 21, 2017, any workplace weapons and/or violence policies must allow individuals with valid Ohio concealed carry licenses to transport or store firearms and/or ammunition in their privately owned vehicles, so long as they comply with the provisions of the new law as outlined above.
Unless an employer is exempt from the law, policies that contain a blanket prohibition against the possession of firearms on company premises may be in violation of the law. However, employers are still permitted to prohibit their employees, customers or other third parties from carrying firearms into company-owned buildings or vehicles. In simple terms, employers have two choices: revise their existing policies to incorporate all the specifics of the new law, or clearly state that firearms are prohibited on company premises except as authorized by law.
In addition, employers should develop or reinforce existing “zero tolerance” workplace violence policies for their employee handbooks. Employees who remove a firearm from their vehicle, such as to “show off” or even frighten a co-worker, can still be disciplined or discharged in accordance with the employer’s policies.
All supervisors and managers in a company should also be trained to understand the basic requirements of the new gun law. This type of training is critical to preventing any potential misunderstandings about what the law does and does not allow employees to do. Finally, employers should contact local law enforcement to establish a point of contact for immediate assistance in the event that any issues may arise. Melissa Dials