Firearms in the Workplace
Professional security practitioners have an obligation to research and fully comprehend what the laws are with concerns for workplace violence and a person’s right to possess a deadly weapon (e.g. firearm) on their employer’s property. In this case, we are talking about a firearm that is not in the employee’s immediate possession, more so in their personal cars parked on the employer’s property.
With the trend of the last several decades of consolidating locations, or mergers and acquisitions, the senior security professionals of some corporations may have responsibilities in several cities and states, thus they need to understand what the laws are in all of those areas. If that sounds like you, do you know what those laws say? If the answer is no, or you have a general idea what their intent is, that is not probably enough to fulfill your due diligence.
Security management needs to work with Legal, Human Resources, and law enforcement to determine what your organization can and cannot do when it comes to firearms on your property, even if those firearms are secured in an employee’s personal vehicle.
Employers Need to Understand the Laws with Regards to Weapons in the Workplace
For example, does the state(s) that your organization(s) operates in have any liability defenses when it comes to an employer’s liability risks if an employee has a firearm in their car, while parked in your parking lots?
- Does your organization understand what their rights are?
- Does management understand what they should be doing to prevent accidental discharges on their property, theft of firearms from personal vehicles, or acts of workplace violence?
- Can your organization terminate the employment of a staff person just for having a firearm in their vehicle when it is parked on the employer’s property?
- Can management require that an employee allow you to search an employee’s car?
- Can your organization prohibit anyone from having a firearm in their personal vehicles, on your property, if there has been no criminal laws violated?
If you do not know the answers to these questions you may find that your organization may have increased liability exposure.
Train Staff Regarding Weapons in the Workplace
With the fact that many states have no requirements for concealed weapons permits, and in some cases the states may not require any training whatsoever for some to carry a firearm concealed or open-carry, the chances are high that employees might not fully understand what they can or cannot do with regards to your property.
In fact, there is a high likelihood that the employees in states that have few or no restrictions on firearms may believe that private property owners have no right to infringe on a person’s right to bear arms. However, most employers have some form of policies in place that may do just that.
The laws that govern where your organization operates may be all over the spectrum of what rights you as an organization have, and what rights that a person, in this case an employee, might have. Therefore, we need to ensure that we have performed a proper due diligence evaluation and completed actionable measures as needed.
As an example of steps that an organization can take includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Conduct an unbiased and comprehensive security risk assessment on your properties in order to ascertain your existing liability exposure and risks. The person that conducts this assessment must be well versed in how to identify security risks, security vulnerabilities, and security threats. In many cases that will be a trusted security advisor from outside the organization with the industry professional certifications.
- Research the laws, both federal, state, and local for all locations where your organization has a presence in.
- Work with your legal counsel to ensure that your organization complies with all laws and regulations that are applicable.
- Write policies that are comprehensive and include references to the laws, ensure that the policies are written so that all employees can understand them. Make certain that Legal, Security, Risk, and Compliance department leadership signs off on the policies before publishing them.
- If your organization operates in several different states, or even different locations within the same state, you should probably consider organization-wide policies, as well as site specific policies.
- Train your management and staff as to the policies and procedures, as well as the organization’s requirements of both staff and leadership. Do not assume that everyone will understand the policies in place.
- Training your security personnel on the policies, and laws that govern your locations, as well as the liability risks and concerns associated with an employee’s and organization’s rights and responsibilities.
As you will find, during the process of conducting your due diligence you will encounter many things that your organization may not have previously considered as being a liability risk, but now those risks are on the table. That being the case, it is imperative that your origination take every newly discovered risk with the upmost seriousness. There may not be immediate need to mitigate some risks, but the organization needs to document their intent either way. For example, if your organization is made aware of a security risk that they feel is not an immediate threat, they may just document that it has been reviewed and it will be addressed when finding is available. Your records of everything that was identified as a risk, threat, or vulnerability may be discoverable in the future during litigation, so it is best to keep good records.