by Leanne Mehrman and Chelsey McDade
Georgia’s newest gun law, the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, goes into effect on July 1 and greatly expands the list of places where licensed gun owners may legally carry their weapons to include schools, government buildings, churches, and bars. Employers, however, can take advantage of certain limits in the law.
Although the law is known as the “guns everywhere” law, employers should be aware of the law’s limits and consider how it affects personnel policies and workplace safety.
Under the new law, Georgia employers may continue to prohibit the possession of firearms on their property as long as they own the property or have legal control of it. According to the new law, “Private property owners or persons in legal control of private property through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to control access to such private property shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property.”
The new law doesn’t significantly alter Georgia’s 2008 gun law allowing firearms in employers’ parking lots. Under Georgia’s Business Security and Employee Privacy Act of 2008 (better known as the “bring your gun to work” law), employees may lawfully bring concealed weapons onto an employer’s property as long as they possess a valid Georgia firearms license and store the weapons out of sight in a locked trunk or glove compartment in a vehicle.
The 2008 law prohibits employers from establishing, maintaining, or enforcing any policy or rule that allows them to search employees’ or invited guests’ private vehicles on company property.
Both the 2008 law and the new law allow employers that own or are in legal control of employee parking lots to restrict access to the lots. Such employers may enforce policies prohibiting the presence of firearms on company property. That exception sharply contrasts with similar laws in several other states that provide a blanket prohibition on employer policies restricting the possession of firearms on company property.
Advice for Georgia employers
Although the Georgia gun laws appear to provide a strong exception for employers that own or have legal control of their property, employers should review their policies and modify them as appropriate. Employers must pay close attention to policies addressing workplace violence, workplace searches and seizures, and substance abuse, which often include provisions allowing searches of employee vehicles on company property.
For more information on how Georgia’s gun laws affect employers, see the July issue of Georgia Employment Law Letter.