Alabama Lawmakers Approve Bill Requiring Employers to Allow Firearms in Employees’ Vehicles

by Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has signed into law SB286, a bill that limits employers’ restrictions on employee possession of guns in their cars at work. The House of Representatives voted 73-28 on Monday to approve a conference committee version of SB286. The bill expands Alabama gun laws in a number of different ways.

Section 4 of the bill concerns weapons that employees may possess in their vehicles that are located in their employers’ parking lots. Subsection 4(a) clarifies that an employer can always prohibit weapons inside its facility and when an employee is engaged in the work of the employer, whether on or off-site. Subsection 4(b) prohibits an employer from restricting an employee from having a firearm that is out of sight and in his or her locked vehicle under certain circumstances. For Subsection 4(b) to apply, the employee must meet certain eligibility criteria, as shown in the following table: 

If the employee has a concealed weapons permit:

The employee is permitted to have a pistol or long gun (shot gun or rifle) in his or her car

If the employee does not have a concealed weapons permit:

The employee can, during hunting season, have an unloaded rifle or shotgun legal for hunting (and not a pistol) out of sight in his or her locked vehicle

The employer can restrict an employee who does not have a concealed weapons permit from having a firearm in his or her car for any of these reasons:

-The employee does not have a valid Alabama hunting license;

-The employee has been convicted of a crime of violence;

-The employee has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence;

-The employee is subject to a domestic violence restraining order;

-The employee has previously been committed to a psychiatric hospital; or

-The employee has prior documented incidents of workplace threats or violence. 

An employer may ask an employee whether he has a weapon in his car if the employer believes that employee to be a risk to himself or others. If the employee says that he does possess a weapon, the employer may take the steps necessary to determine whether the employee is in compliance with the criteria stated above. The employer may within its discretion take disciplinary action against the employee upon finding that the employee is not in compliance with the law. 

An employer may not take any action against the employee solely based on the presence of the lawful weapon in the employee’s vehicle. The bill recognizes a cause of action for wrongful termination if an employee terminated solely on the basis of the presence of a weapon in his or her car. The employee may seek damages for lost wages and other lost compensation, but the bill does not recognize reinstatement as a remedy to the wrongful termination cause of action. Section 4 does not prohibit an employer from reporting an employee to law enforcement based on threats made or based on credible evidence that the employee has broken the law.

SB286 will affect employers’ human resources policies and will specifically restrict employers’ no-weapons policies that prohibit guns on the employer’s property regardless of where the guns are stored. Employers will need to adjust their policies accordingly to stay within the bounds of the law while continuing to provide a safe work environment for employees in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). Employers may want to consider increased training on how to avoid workplace violence and proper reporting mechanisms when threats or incidents of workplace violence occur. Employers may also want to consider any appropriate and legal pre-employment screening to reduce the number of personnel who could be prone to violent behavior.

Other states have already enacted similar guns-in-vehicle bills, including Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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