Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 14, NO. 7, Pg. 12.
Georgia's "Bring Your Gun to Work" Law May Not Have the Firepower to Trouble Georgia Employers After All
GSB JournalVol. 14, NO. 7June 2009Georgia's "Bring Your Gun to Work" Law May Not Have the Firepower to Trouble Georgia Employers After AllBy Thomas A. Cox Jr. and Sonya MadisonHailed by some Georgia employers as an example of dangerous and possibly harmful public policy, while praised by others as a way to prevent crime, in the end, Georgia's "Bring Your Gun to Work" law(fn1) may not pack the firepower that its drafters originally intended. The new Georgia law prohibits searching an employee's vehicle and permits employees to have licensed guns in parking lots. The law is riddled with loopholes that may actually aid Georgia employers in preventing employees from bringing firearms onto an employer's property. A question remains as to whether the existence of the statute in and of itself raises additional implications regarding the duty of Georgia employers to provide a safe workplace.
General Overview of the Law
Formally known as the "Business Security and Employee Privacy Act," the law allows holders of concealed weapons to carry firearms in all parks, historic sites, recreational areas and wildlife management areas in Georgia.(fn2) The law is of particular interest to Georgia employers because it allows employees to bring concealed weapons onto an employer's property as long as the weapons are stored out of sight in a locked trunk or glove box within a motor vehicle, and the employee possesses a valid Georgia firearms license.(fn3) An employer's property would include the parking lots of Georgia employers. The law also prevents an employer from searching an employee's or invited guest's motor vehicle for a firearm.(fn4)
Georgia is Not Alone
Several other states have passed laws that prohibit employers from banning the possession of licensed firearms in employee-owned vehicles parked on employer premises. The state laws regarding employer restrictions on firearm possession in employee automobiles are generally summarized and divided into two categories. The first category includes those states with laws that constitute a severe restriction on employer regulation of firearms in parking lots. The second category, which includes Georgia, comprises those states whose laws contain significant exceptions that weaken the law's actual impact on employers.
States with Severe Restrictions
Florida prohibits employers from asking employees whether they have a firearm inside a vehicle on the employer's parking lot, searching a vehicle in a parking lot for a firearm, prohibiting access to a parking lot because of the presence of a firearm in a motor vehicle, taking any action against an individual because of a firearm in a motor vehicle, terminating employment of an employee for possession of a firearm in a vehicle or discriminating against an employee who exhibits a gun in the parking lot if the exhibition was for lawful defensive purposes.(fn5) The law only applies where the employee in question has a concealed weapons permit.
Kentucky prevents employers from prohibiting any person legally entitled to possess a firearm from possessing such firearm in a vehicle on the employer's property. The law also provides that a firearm may be removed from the vehicle or handled in the case of self-defense, defense of another or defense of property.(fn6)
Louisiana prevents private employers from prohibiting any person from transporting or storing a firearm in a locked, privately-owned motor vehicle in any parking lot, parking garage or other designated parking area. Employers may require that any such firearm be hidden from plain view or held within a locked case or container within the vehicle.(fn7)
Minnesota provides that "the owner or operator of a private establishment may not prohibit the lawful carry or possession of firearms in a parking facility or parking area."(fn8) The law does allow employers to ban possession of firearms in buildings or other structures and provides for criminal fines for individuals who refuse a property owner's request that firearms not be brought into an establishment.(fn9)
In 2005, Oklahoma passed a parking lot gun law that prevented employers from establishing "any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked motor vehicle, or from transporting and storing firearms locked in or locked to a motor vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle."(fn10)