More Guns in Trunks—Mississippi Supreme Court Amends Wrongful Discharge Doctrine

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Given Mississippi’s guns in trunks statute, can you legally terminate an employee for keeping a gun in his car at work? The Mississippi Supreme Court in Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation answered this question, certified from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, as a “no”. The company terminated Mr. Swindol when it learned that he parked his car in the company parking lot with a firearm locked inside. Mr. Swindol argued that his termination violated Mississippi’s statute (45-9-55) that specifically prohibits an employer from having a policy that would not allow a person to store a firearm in a locked vehicle on company property. The Fifth Circuit noted that there was no case law in Mississippi on this issue and asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to weigh in.

Mississippi has long followed the rule of employment-at-will, which means that either party may terminate a non-contractual employment relationship for “good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, excepting only reasons independently declared legally impermissible.” Until the Swindol case, impermissible reasons under state law were limited to situations where an employee was fired for refusing to participate in an illegal act or where an employee was discharged for reporting illegal acts.

The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the “guns in trunks” statute adds another exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. It held that it is a wrongful discharge to fire an employee solely for having a firearm in a locked personal vehicle on company property and the employer could be held liable.

Employers should take note of this decision and may need to amend any firearm restrictions in company policies. It is important to note that the statute only protects the possession of a firearm in a locked personal vehicle on company property. It does not require an employer to allow firearms outside the vehicle on company property.

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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