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Alabama law about firearms in the workplace

A business recently asked us about the Alabama firearms-in-the-workplace law, found at § 13A-11-90 of the Code of Alabama 1975. Concern about firearms in the workplace is certainly rational because of recent shootings at workplaces, as well as at places of worship and businesses.

This law is not new, having gone into effect on August 1, 2013, after being signed by the governor on May 21, 2013.

Summary

As a general rule, an employer can’t ban or otherwise discipline an employee for having a firearm stored in his or her vehicle parked in the employer’s parking lot. But there are many limitations to the employee’s privilege of being able to have a firearm stored in his or her vehicle at work. Without trying to list all of the qualifications, here are few that demonstrate the complexity of these limitations:

  1. The vehicle must be parked in a proper place.
  2. The firearm must be hidden so that it can’t be ordinarily observed.
  3. The firearm must be kept in a container securely affixed to the vehicle.
  4. The employee must have a valid conceal-carry permit or a valid hunter’s license.
  5. The employee must not have any “mental issues” or a history of violence.

Employees can sue if the employer violates this law

Most important, employers need to know that this statute creates an exception to the general employment-at-will principle of Alabama law. In other words, if the employee has properly complied with the requirements of the statute and the employer terminates or disciplines an employee, the employee does have a right to sue the employer.

Firearms can be banned elsewhere

This statute does make it clear that the employer can ban firearms from the workplace building and elsewhere on the premises that are not the parking lot, even if the employee has a valid conceal-carry permit. The employer can also prohibit an employee from having a firearm when carrying out employer-related business when the employee is not on the employer’s premises. For example, a dairy could prohibit a delivery truck driver from carrying a firearm while the driver is delivering milk away from the employer’s premises, even if the driver has a valid conceal-carry permit.

But just because an employer can ban firearms does not require the employer to do so. So if we return to the example of the delivery truck driver, an employer could allow the driver to carry a firearm while delivering milk and require the driver to obtain a valid conceal-carry permit.

Law protects employers from liability to a certain extent

Employers may be relieved to know that the law (in § 13A-11-91) also protects employers from lawsuits arising from a firearm being brought onto the property of the employer. The law explicitly provides that “The presence of a firearm or ammunition on an employer’s property under the authority of [§ 13A-11-90] does not, by itself, constitute the failure by the employer to provide a safe workplace.” Furthermore, the employer does not have to patrol, inspect, or secure parking areas or make sure that employees comply with laws about firearms.

Warning

This blog posting covers only the basics of this law, which I once again emphasize is complex. So as with any provision in an employee handbook or adoption of policy about the workplace, employers are encouraged to review any provisions about firearms with legal counsel.

Further observations about workplace violence

The latest census of occupational injuries (conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor) indicated that homicides as a result of workplace violence have increased, but not to the higher rates known in previous years. These increases appear to be associated with certain occupations: first-line supervisors of retail sales workers, cashiers, law enforcement personnel, and taxi drivers. Hospital emergency room personnel are also known to be at a higher risk of workplace violence. As for the retail sales workers and their supervisors, the victims don’t typically work for big department stores in shopping malls, but are more likely to be convenience store clerks.

Items on this web page are general in nature. They cannot—and should not—replace consultation with a competent legal professional. Nothing on this web page should be considered rendering legal advice.

© 2018

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Friday, 16 November 2018

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