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Dealing With Employees Who Are "Strapped" - Guns in Cars...

Guns in the workplace.  Interesting topic among HR pros, in that everyone agrees you can't bring one on your person into the building, but there's a lot of confusion on whether you can enforce a policy that says employees can't have a firearm in their car while on company property.

Here's what I hear when I talk to other HR pros about the topic:

1.  "We have the right and need to ban firearms on company property, including in employeeClinteastwoodposters vehicles in our parking lot."

2.  "You can't ban it - they have the right to have that firearm in their car as long as it is not on their person."

3.  "You could ban it, but then to enforce it you would have to do an illegal search and seizure of their car if you had suspicion they were packing."

4.  "I know I can ban, but if I clarify the policy, I'm going to upset a lot of people who are currently packing in their cars.  So I'm going to leave it alone.

My take has always been you need a policy that says firearms are never OK on company property, including locked, parked vehicles.  I always figured I would work through all the issues related to a search if I got to that point, which I hoped I never did.

Now comes Florida Governor Charlie Crist, signing a law that protects the right to keep a loaded gun in your car, as long as it's locked up:

"With the stroke of a pen, Governor Charlie Crist has made it legal for Floridians to take their guns to work and keep the weapon locked in their car.

Crist signed the bill into law Tuesday, and it will go into effect July 1st.

The law says businesses cannot stop employees or customers from keeping a gun locked inside their car.

Some places, like schools and prisons, are still off limits."

Welcome to America.  I'm a big constitutional rights guy, but clearly businesses need to have the right to require workers to leave the guns at home . . . if for no other reason than to diffuse the crazy situations that come up at any business. 

Comments

Scott

Don’t forget, this country was born from the actions of revolutionaries. Folks that thought enough of gun ownership to actually put it in one of our founding documents. I don’t see them mentioning anything about “businesses” in these documents. Guns were to keep the tyrants at bay. They knew if they didn’t give the populous the ability to protect themselves from tyrants, we’d end up in the same boat we started in. They didn’t make any distinction if the tyrant was a government or business.

Bravo Charlie Crist!

Michael Haberman, SPHR

Scott, you don't see businesses mentioned by the founding fathers because they were dealing with how a government deals with its citizens, not how businesses deal with employees. If I as an employer have private property I should have the ability to bar gun toting employees from my property. That does not infringe on their rights to own a gun and to protect themselves from a government. As an HR manager who has had to sit and wonder whether a disgruntled employee was coming back to my office with a gun I want to make sure that employee has to go a little further than their car.

Georgia has passed a similar law, not yet signed into law. It does have a provision for recognizing an employer's private property rights. We will see how this turns out.

KDill

I know to most people, guns are taboo and considered a bad thing. Most of those people, if not all, don’t even own a gun. That’s fine because it’s a right to bare arms, it’s not a requirement. Now before both sides start throwing mud lets point out a good solution as well as a good point.

Background checks! I know I’ve personally worked for companies that just hired people to do the task at hand without doing a good background search. A week or so later, the local police department is there due to a scuffle or a warrant out for that employee’s arrest. Pretty fun stuff when you’re looking out the window of your corporate office at the distribution center 350 yards away.

I talked to some of the employees in human resources and they were complaining that the new hires were not being processed thoroughly therefore leading to incidents around their company. Further more, the temp agency wasn’t sending them the caliber employee they requested when they were in need of temps. Anyway, the company was soon bought out and from what I hear the warehouse is ran totally different than what it use to be without all the weekly drama. Tougher background checks maybe? Who knows! I know that most HR reps will want to “defuse” a situation as much as possible before that employee walks out of the building “or at least I hope you do”.

There was a case back in the early to mid 80’s that involved a guy stalking his co-worker. I don’t have my college text book in front of me but I’ll tell you what I remember….

- Man stalks employee “for a long time… maybe a year or more”
- Employee told her boss and he reports to the companies HR division
- HR tells the stalker to go get treatment “I think they paid for it”
- Stalker gets treatment but continues to stalk.
- Company fires him
- Stalker comes back and kills multiple people “and I think she lives”

Now, imagine if you’re HR or an employee there. You did what you could and you still fell into harms way. It’s because when someone is this irrational, once they’ve reached that point of no return, “laws, rules nor beliefs mean anything”.

I’ve read cases like this over and over when I was back in college. Majority of my professors along law enforcement professionals that I worked / studied with all say the same thing…. “Once they’ve made their mind up, you rarely defuse the situation”

What can be learned from all of this?

Well, for starters… there is no clear cut answer. But there are a few things you can do.

1.) Better background checks. “If they are a troublemaker it’s in their past, hopefully”

2.) When confronting people about a situation, DO NOT PLAY THE SUPERIOR ROLE! All you’ll do is throw gas on the fire and put that person in a fit of rage. If you create a hostile environment, you’ll get hostile results.

3.) Listen closely to employee complaints about other employees. If someone is reporting behavior that is not proper, follow-up.

So now you’re 100% safe right? Negative, nor will you ever be. All you can do is conduct your business the best way you can and try to hire people who are qualified and pass proper background checks.

So, as a guy who did carry a gun in his car all the time, I’d like to tell you why I carried it. “Like HR” I painted “worst case scenarios” in my head and wanted to “prepare” myself in case something like what I “imagined” ever happened.


Question: In a background check, what all is checked?

Kevin

As long as the business can guarantee my personal safety on my way to work and on my way home I'm OK with their oversight of my private vehicle in their parking lot.

What?! They can't do that?

Well, then it strikes me that an employer who effectively - by virtue of their policy - prevents an employee the means to defend themselves on their way to and from work could be held liable should said employee be injured or killed by a bad guy during that commute.

Let's be frank - the only people to benefit from a silly "no guns" HR policy is the bad guys who, rumor has it, don't follow laws, rules, or policies.

HR Wench

I have been on the fence with this topic for a long time. I see good and bad points on both sides of the arguement. However, the older I get the more I lean towards a company being able to ban firearms on their property, including those that are in locked vehicles owned by employees.

The reason why is summed up perfectly from a line Kris quoted above, "Some places, like schools and prisons, are still off limits."

I ask myself, well why would those locations be off limits if this is a constitutional issue? I think they are off limits because it's NOT a constitutional issue. It is an issue of violence begetting violence. Guns are completely unnecessary unless you literally have to hunt/poach to feed your family because you have no other choice.

Unfortunatly, "bad guys" have guns. So a lot of "good guys" don't want to be without one lest they need to protect themselves.

But really, how many times have you felt the absolute life or death need to reach for that gun you carry? Do you really think you will be able to reach for and shoot your gun with any accuracy as a car-jacker, mugger or whoever is aiming their gun at or simply shooting you? So why is it in your car?

I just don't get it.

KD

A LOT of good points here, from the perspective of HR Pro, citizen and employee. No perfect answer, but I think businesses should lobby hard to have the ability to ask employees via the handbook not to bring guns on the property.

I grew up in a hunting family, so I'm comfortable with the comments about the rights issue related to this. It's a part of the deal when you live in America.

At the end of the day, I think the policy is to have to tools to diffuse situations. With that in mind, what managers and HR pros have to remember is what KDill said - the skill to diffuse a situation by treating the employee in question with respect is worth at least as much as the policy, if not more.

Good notes, keep them coming!

KD

Kevin

"Some places, like schools and prisons, are still off limits."

Prisons have armed guards; schools don't. Where have the unchecked slaughters taken place? It’s an easy answer - where a "policy" has effectively banned the ability of those attending from protecting themselves.

"I think they are off limits because it's NOT a constitutional issue. It is an issue of violence begetting violence. Guns are completely unnecessary unless you literally have to hunt/poach to feed your family because you have no other choice."

Ah! Your true colors come shining through. Of course it's a Constitutional issue. You and KD confuse a Constitutional right to keep & bear arms" with hunting. Our politicians try to do that, too. The argument that the 2nd Amendment is a hunting-thing is nonsense.

"Unfortunately, 'bad guys' have guns. So a lot of 'good guy'" don't want to be without one lest they need to protect themselves."

True!

"But really, how many times have you felt the absolute life or death need to reach for that gun you carry?"

About as many times as I've felt the need to reach for my fire extinguisher - never! And I'm thankful. But I'm also thankful that I have proper tools, and the right, to protect myself and my family if the need arises.

"Do you really think you will be able to reach for and shoot your gun with any accuracy as a car-jacker, mugger or whoever is aiming their gun at or simply shooting you? So why is it in your car?"

Yes. Unlike bad guys (and even most cops I might add), I train. The handgun - except for work - is never in my car. The car is a very unsafe place to keep it. It’s on my person. I'm licensed to carry a concealed handgun. I've passed a criminal and mental background check. I've taken the required training. I choose to be responsible for my own safety because no one else can do that for me. What do you know about your other employees?

"I just don't get it."

Some people don't. The rest of us do...

Beth

I just keep asking the same question, why would you have a gun in your car at work? Why would you need a gun in your car at work?

I drive 100+miles a day and have worked in some of the worst neighborhoods, but never felt the need to have a gun in my car for protection.

I just don't get it I guess!

Kevin

"I just keep asking the same question, why would you have a gun in your car at work?"

Already answered.

"I drive 100+miles a day and have worked in some of the worst neighborhoods, but never felt the need to have a gun in my car for protection."

And I hope that you never experience a situation that causes you to wish you had made a different choice. By the way, odds are that you won't experience a self-defense situation. But I'm not a gambler when it comes to my personal, or my family's, safety.

"I just don't get it I guess!"

Fair enough!

robert

These laws are in response to some very bad decisions on the part of employers. Weyerhouser, I believe at a plant in Oklahoma, fired a number of employees several years ago after searching thier personal vehicles for weapons on opening day of hunting season. Were the LEGAL firearms in these employees' locked vehicles really a threat to the workplace?
I hope and pray that the Florida law is upheld and additional states follow with similar legislation to protect the rights of employees.

Peter

When I worked in an industrial park in the early 1980s our employer had a different policy. Employees did not need to bring guns to work as the company shotgun was available to many employees for use in general defense of the property. (It was kept under lock and key - but the keys were issued to about 10 employees.) As we were located just down the street from one of the largest open air drug markets in the city, there were several times over a period of approximately five years where the company shotgun was deployed to keep the low lifes off the property.

When one of us encountered a threat, we pulled out the shotgun and phoned the police. I recall that it worked quite well.

Additionally, the owner of the adjacent business was staffed by a couple of Vietnam vets who were also armed. They also had to pull out their weapons several times in self defense. I never felt uncomfortable with the fact that there were a number of people around with weapons.

While there were several situatons where arms were displayed and the police were called, no weapon was ever fired at any of these thugs as the appearance of the firearm was always enough to correct the problem.

I am not suggesting that I have the "answer" to this debate, but I think my experience is worth considering.

HR Wench

Kevin - Why such a condescending tone? Please add that to the list of things I don't get.

I know Kris is not big on readers making several comment posts / turning the blog into a bulletin board. However, I would like to follow up on some of your comments this one time. :)

"Unchecked slaughters" have happened at prisons. The thing is, the media doesn't care. They care about innocent kids being killed at schools. They don't care about convicted criminals being killed. Now if a guard or two gets killed, then you may hear about it.

You say the car is a very unsafe place to keep guns yet you cheer for FL and GA laws that allow such a thing. Where is the logic in that?

You sound extremely concerned about your safety. Yet at the same time you talk about the slim odds you will ever need to use a gun to ensure your safety. So, I guess the issue for you is "it's my right per the constitution?".

THAT is what I don't get. It seems to me that it is fraught with ego, an attitude of entitlement above logic; almost an "I-am-man-hear-me-roar" type of thing.

At any rate, those are my thoughts on the matter.

Kevin

Disagreeing doesn't equate to condescending. And speaking of condescending - I love the "I-am-man-hear-me-roar" comment.

Innocent kids get killed at schools because of in-place anti-gun policies, not because there are no policies.

FL and GA statutes don't provide the best solution but, at least, a citizen is still protected on their drive to and from work.

While certainly my right per the Constitution, my bigger right of self-defense is one that I choose to be able to exercise.

A question for you. You may or may not have a spouse and/or children. If you do, fantastic and you can probably better relate to the question. If you don't, put yourself in the shoes of a parent for just a moment. How WOULD you handle a self-defense situation if you and your family were placed into a position where you were convinced that it truly was a matter of life or death? Forgetting the Constitution for just a moment, what is your moral obligation to defend and protect them?

Thanks!

HR Wench

Kevin - No, disagreeing is not condescending in of itself.

The following are not only condescending, but make it appear that you lack the ability to actually debate an issue. Your sarcasm towards other people's opinions just weakens your credibility, not to mention your side of the debate.

"What?! They can't do that?"

"the only people to benefit from a silly "no guns" HR policy is the bad guys who, rumor has it, don't follow laws, rules, or policies."

"Ah! Your true colors come shining through."

"The argument that the 2nd Amendment is a hunting-thing is nonsense."

"Some people don't. The rest of us do..."

"But I'm not a gambler when it comes to my personal, or my family's, safety."

Where I come from, not only is most of that condescending, but passive aggressive as well.

I would be very open to hearing thoughtful opinions backed up with actual information. You can keep the rest.

Now I have trespassed too long on Kris's blog's comment section and I will bid you all a good Tuesday.

KD

HR Wench -

Thanks for the props to the fact that I've been known to be aggressive in policing the comments section of the site. Honestly, there's one guy who has a habit of doing a comment, then stalking people who dare disagree with him - he's even come back under different names a time or two.

He's really been the only one I've policed like that - you've just seen it multiple times with the same guy... :)

I let Kevin run with multiple comments since to my knowledge, he's a first time commenter, and this seems like his issue. So I letting him run a little bit...

As for the HR Wench, I'm always happy to let you come back in multiple times. So come back as much as you want on this and any other post. I think you can probably handle things just fine.

KD

Kevin

Thanks KD. I am a first-time poster and this is my issue. I appreciate the latitude.

HR Wench - Let me try to improve on a statement and tell me if this works...

"the only people to benefit from a "no guns" HR policy is the bad guys who don't follow laws, rules, or policies."

I removed the words "silly" and "rumor has it" in the hope that it would come across as more palatable.

I'm still interested in your response to the other points that I made as well as the question that I posed - How would you handle a self-defense situation if you and your family were placed into a position where you were convinced that it truly was a matter of life or death? Forgetting the Constitution for just a moment, what is your social and moral obligation to defend and protect them?

HR Wench

Kev - Regarding your point "Innocent kids get killed at schools because of in-place anti-gun policies, not because there are no policies." I would have to disagree. I would say innocent kids get killed at schools because criminals get a hold of guns and shoot them. The no-guns policy does not a crime make. The actions of a person does. Kinda like that saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people". If the schools had armed guards perhaps the body count could be lessened. I hope so. But outside of law enforcement, I don't want to see anyone at school with a gun.

Regarding your question about me/my family being in a life or death situation: if someone was physically coming at me or my family my first thought would be to protect those I hold dear, of course. I think anyone who isn't a sociopath would probably feel the same (I hope!). But I think you are asking how I would protect or defend and not if? If so, my first instinct (from experience) would be to use my fists. I'm not saying a gun wouldn't be potentially useful in such a situation, but I do believe it would not only be more problomatic (unlock it, take safety off, point, shoot, go to jail, try to prove it was life or death self defense...) but could be entirely unnecessary (the threat was NOT life or death but I thought it was, the person went down after the first punch, etc). I feel I have a moral obligation to protect my family, yes, but I also have a moral obligation to not kill anyone unless it is entirely unavoidable.

For the record, I don't think guns should be banned/the constitution altered but I do think businesses and organizations should have the right to ban them from their property.

Amber C

I'm an HR pro and I'm in Florida. When this law passed, all of my mixed feelings came up. Then they passed aside, and I'm fine with the law. Why you ask?

1 - Having a policy doesn't mean employees obey it.
2 - Employees probably brought guns (with or without concealed permits) in their cars AT work before the law passed (see number 1 above)
3- Like KDill said above "Once they’ve made their mind up, you rarely defuse the situation”

Honestly, I wasn't any safer before the law was passed. I had situations where I called co-workers for back-up "in-case" the upset employee in the lobby wanted to get someone and I was that someone. Every time I had these incidents, it was because my COMPANY did NOT perform appropriate background screening. Later, I looked up each individual online (free to the public) and was able within minutes to find out their past conviction history, arrests, assults, etc. Knowing this helped me realize what type of individual I was dealing with - one known to be unstable.

My point is, if you honestly think that laws and policies are going to keep you and your employees safe, then I highly urge you to do some research and rethink your stance. And, create your emergency response and evacuation plan. Because, you'll never know when you need it.

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