Late Thursday, the Indiana Legislature passed, with overwhelming support, a bill prohibiting employers from keeping employees’ legally-possessed firearms off their property, so long as the firearms are kept out of sight in a locked vehicle.
The bill, which mirrors laws in 12 states and was supported by the National Rifle Association, now awaits Governor Mitch Daniels’ signature. Although the proposed law would not prevent employers from banning firearms inside the workplace, employers still must reexamine their policies and practices regarding firearms on their property. Significantly, the bill also authorizes individual lawsuits against employers that fail to comply with the law.
Governor Daniels now has 10 days to sign or veto the bill. Given the exceedingly strong support it received (House 75-20; Senate 41-9), it seems likely he will sign the bill into law, and it would become effective on July 1, 2010. If so, then employers must comply with its provisions unless they are an exempt institution — schools and colleges, child care centers, group homes, and domestic violence shelters, among others.
Otherwise, employers must revise their current policies regarding firearms if those policies aren’t consistent with the law, or they face the possibility of legal action. Indeed, the law allows a court to order an employer to comply with the law, and employees can recover actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. With these remedies available, plaintiffs’ attorneys will have an incentive to file lawsuits.
If the Governor signs the bill, property rights advocates and other opponents may challenge it in court. Unless it is overturned by a court or later changed by the Legislature, employers must respond to these restrictions and modify policies and practices that generally prohibit firearms on employer property.
An update will be provided in the next issue of Indiana Employment Law Letter when the Governor acts on the bill.
David Wagner, Mitzi Martin, and Susan Kline are attorneys with Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis, which writes and edits the monthly Indiana Employment Law Letter . You can find more information about state gun laws affecting employers in 50 Employment Laws in 50 States.