Guns in the Workplace
The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental American value that many employees wish to exercise at their workplace. Employers must balance compliance with gun-related workplace laws with maintaining a safe workplace environment for employees. It’s important for employers to know what the law requires of them regarding guns in the workplace and what the law doesn’t address. This post will examine what rights an employer has developing policy on guns in the workplace, employer liability for workplace gun accidents, and how a workplace violence policy might protect your organization.
Gun laws vary from state to state. In Colorado, state statutes protect the rights of private property owners, private tenants, private employers, and private businesses to prohibit weapons on their property. It is essentially up to the employer to decide which employees, if any, can bring a firearm into the workplace. This law includes the right of an employer to prohibit the possession of a firearm in the company’s parking lot inside a locked vehicle. Currently, a little more than half of the states have passed laws protecting an employee’s right to keep a firearm in their personal cars in an employer’s parking lot. These statutory provisions are referred to as “parking lot laws.” Most of the states with “parking lot laws” specify that an employer has the right to prohibit firearms in company vehicles.
Some states provide immunity to employers who allow employees to have firearms in the workplace or personal vehicles. Colorado state statutes, however, do not address employer liability related to employee possession of a firearm at the workplace. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace for employees. It’s possible that an employer could be held liable for failing to provide a safe workplace if there was an accident involving an employee’s firearm, if the employer permitted the firearm on its premises.
The best way to protect your organization is to develop a comprehensive workplace violence policy. A company policy on firearms should be part of a broader workplace violence policy. This policy can address all types of violence in the workplace, the company position on weapons in the workplace, and what to do in an emergency. This policy can also address how to report threats of violence and establish disciplinary procedures for employees who violate the policy. In states like Colorado, the presence of a policy addressing the organization’s position on weapons in the workplace is especially important if an employer wishes to limit an employee’s otherwise broad right to carry a firearm. If an employer doesn’t wish to limit that right, the policy can address what the employer considers an appropriate approach to carrying, including maintaining confidentiality. And an employer could also consider addressing whether certain levels of training would be required before someone is permitted to carry in the workplace.
Once a policy is developed, it’s best practice for the employer to give notice to all employees if weapons are not permitted on company property. If weapons are prohibited, an employer should also give notice that desks and personal items may be searched at any time.
If your organization doesn’t have a workplace violence policy, consider consulting with legal counsel to develop an effective and legally compliant policy. Addressing this issue now, before a problem develops, is the best way to protect your organization from liability in the future.
 Colorado Revised Statute § 18-12-214.
Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations