Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act Will Require Employers to Take Action

by Holland & Knight LLP

On July 9, 2013, Illinois passed the Firearm Concealed Carry Act (FCCA), becoming the final state to permit the concealed carry of firearms. In 2014, the Illinois State Police must begin accepting applications for licenses to carry concealed weapons in public. Overturning the longtime ban on concealed weapons, the FCCA confronts Illinois employers with new potential threats and liabilities.

Background to the Firearm Concealed Carry Act

In Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit found Illinois's last-in-the-nation prohibition on the concealed carry of firearms to be unconstitutional. Recognizing that immediately striking down the state’s concealed carry prohibition would allow individuals an unfettered right to carry concealed weapons, the court allowed Illinois’s ban to remain in effect until June 9, 2013. This would permit the General Assembly an opportunity to craft a new regulatory regime that allows concealed-carry subject to reasonable restrictions. After receiving a 30-day extension, the state legislature passed the FCCA (PA 098-0063) into law by overriding Governor Pat Quinn's veto.

The FCCA amends the existing Firearm Owners Identification Card ("FOID") Act, extending the right to carry firearms to public places. The new law allows individuals to obtain a license and carry loaded, concealed firearms in public and store them in their vehicles.

Within 180 days after July 9, the Illinois State Police must make concealed-carry license applications available to the public. Concealed-carry licenses will only be available to FOID cardholders (or those with concealed-carry licenses from other states) who pass Illinois State Police screenings. Illinois government sources anticipate that 300,000 concealed-carry license applications will be filed in the first six months of 2014.  

Prohibited Areas

The FCCA bars firearms from "prohibited areas." Prohibited areas include hospitals, schools, colleges, government buildings, public transportation, gaming facilities and most bars, as well as other specified types of facilities. Owners of prohibited areas are not required to post signs stating that firearms are banned from their properties, but they may choose to do so.

Other private businesses may ban firearms by posting official signs at the entrances to their buildings, premises or properties. The FCCA does not specify how a property owner must post a sign at the "entrances" to open land, a corporate park or a strip mall. The Illinois State Police has not yet published regulations interpreting the new law, nor has the official sign banning concealed-carry on private property been made publicly available.

Owners of private residences have the option of barring concealed firearms on their property. No signage must be posted.

Parking Lots

Even though businesses may post official signs and ban firearms on their properties, they may not ban firearms from private vehicles brought into their parking lots, provided the firearms are secured in a locked vehicle or a locked compartment within the vehicle. A firearm may also be carried near a vehicle for the purpose of storing or retrieving the firearm from the vehicle's trunk.

Implications for Employer Policies on Firearms in the Workplace

The FCCA does not address the rights and obligations of "employers" per se; rather, it addresses the rights and obligations of "businesses." But as "businesses" under the new law, employers that do not fall under one of the "prohibited area" categories have the right to bar their employees from bringing firearms into their facilities or onto other land owned by the employer (with the exception of parking lots, discussed above). Employers who do not own or operate prohibited areas should stay current with the Illinois State Police's forthcoming regulations so that they may post the official signs banning concealed weapons on their properties.

Given that the FCCA prohibits "businesses" from barring individuals from having concealed weapons in their cars in parking lots, it appears that employers probably cannot bar employees from keeping firearms locked in their personal vehicles in employer-owned parking lots. But the new law is silent on whether an employer has the right to condition employment or continued employment on an employee agreeing not to bring a firearm into a vehicle owned or supplied by the employer, or into the homes or businesses of the employer's customers while the employee is rendering services on behalf of the employer. In considering this employment policy issue, employers should take into account that they face substantial liability exposure and negative publicity if an employee injures a third party with a firearm while on the job.

Open Question on Liability

Concealed firearms in the workplace present a host of safety concerns and potential liabilities for employers. Unlike neighboring states that permit concealed-carry, such as Wisconsin, the Illinois law does not limit the liability of property owners who permit concealed-carry on their properties. Employers who choose to allow employees and others to bring firearms into the workplace risk workers’ compensation claims, negligence claims or other tort actions from victims of workplace violence, as well as the negative publicity that accompanies such claims.

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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