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General Assembly Shoots Down Policies Banning Firearms in Employee Vehicles

Employees are just one signature away from being able to keep firearms locked in their vehicles while at work. Last week, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 1065, a law prohibiting employers from adopting or enforcing policies that prevent employees from possessing firearms or ammunition that are locked in trunks, kept in glove compartments, or stored out of plain sight in locked vehicles parked in employee parking lots. Governor Mitch Daniels is expected to sign the bill in the near future, despite vocal opposition by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The bill, supported by gun rights advocates, allows employees to bring a civil lawsuit against employers who violate the law.

The bill only applies to employees who may lawfully possess firearms and ammunition. Additionally, several employers are exempted including schools, universities, prisons, child-care centers, domestic violence shelters, and investor-owned utilities. Businesses licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and regulated by the federal Department of Homeland Security’s anti-terrorism standards are also exempted, as well as employees who transport developmentally disabled individuals in their personal vehicles. The bill does not prevent employers from prohibiting firearms or ammunition inside the workplace or in areas on employer property that are located outside of employees’ vehicles.

This bill comes at a time when some gun rights activists have been organizing “open carry” activities. A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that many businesses have unwillingly found themselves in the middle of the firearms debate based on their decisions to ban guns on their business premises or by their decision not to implement such a policy. In an effort to protest such policies, gun activists have encouraged gun owners to carry their weapons in the open while out in public in states where open carry is permitted. They have also made lists of businesses that are “open carry friendly” and those that are not, and have encouraged followers to boycott those who ban this practice. According to the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks, one of the businesses that does not ban guns on its premises, has become a “parade ground” for such activists. Some customers and employees have been bothered by seeing guns carried in plain view, while others do not see anything wrong with the practice. This issue is certain to remain hotly debated in the months and years to come. Forty-three states, including Indiana, allow “open carry.” The decision is ultimately that of the business to decide whether or not to ban guns on its premises.

If you have questions about House Bill 1065, its impact on your business, or your business’s employment policies, contact one of the Labor and Employment attorneys at Bingham McHale.

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