The Employer's Legal Resource: Governor Signs Open-Carry Bill - What This Means for Employers
On May 15, Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1733 into law, permitting Oklahomans to openly carry firearms. The bill, which goes into effect on November 1 and expands on the previously enacted "concealed-carry" law, permits Oklahomans who have undergone a firearms safety and training course and a background check to carry a concealed or unconcealed pistol. A pistol is defined as any derringer, revolver or semiautomatic firearm which has an overall length of less than sixteen inches and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. The bill prohibits the carrying of firearms on property owned or leased by local, state, or federal governments, at jails, prisons, or correctional facilities, at elementary and secondary schools and on college campuses, at sports arenas during professional sporting events, and at liquor stores.
Significant for employers, the new "open-carry" law, like the "concealed-carry" law, requires employers to permit employees to keep firearms and ammunition in a locked motor vehicle on the employer's property. As we discussed in our February 2009 Special Alert regarding the "concealed-carry" law, the new "open-carry" law provides that employers may be sued for establishing, maintaining, or enforcing a policy or procedure that prohibits an employee from storing a gun in their motor vehicle while on company property. The law provides that prevailing employees shall be awarded actual damages, court costs, and attorney fees, and the employer will be enjoined from further enforcing the unlawful policy. The law does state that employers shall not be held liable in any civil action for occurrences which result from an employee storing a gun in his or her motor vehicle. However, this limitation of liability does not apply to claims pursuant to the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act. Accordingly, an employer would still be required to pay workers' compensation to an employee who is injured by an occurrence arising from a co-worker's gun.
Bottom line for employers
An employer can prohibit persons from bringing firearms onto the employer's premises, concealed or open.
An employer cannot prohibit persons from storing those firearms in their motor vehicles.
If you have questions about the new "open-carry" law or violence in the workplace generally, don't hesitate to contact our employment group.
By Kenneth T. Short, email@example.com