Ten Questions On Every Employer’s Mind About Maine’s New Bring Your Gun To Work Law

 (Post written by the attorneys of Verrill Dana)

Last month Maine passed L.D. 35, a law that allows employees with valid concealed firearm permits to keep a firearm in their vehicle at work – so long as the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible. This new law raises serious concerns for employers about property rights and employee and customer safety. Because this new law has generated so many questions, we’ve provided the following brief, practical answers to common concerns. Keep in mind, however, that the below answers are based on a narrow reading of L.D. 35 and only a viable “test case” can provide more definitive guidance.

Question 1 –Does every employee who legally owns a gun have a right to bring it to work? No. L.D. 35’s language only provides protection to those employees who have “a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm.” To carry a concealed firearm an individual has to meet the requirements set forth under Maine’s concealed weapons permitting law (25 M.R.S.A. § 2001 et. seq). So, just because an employee lawfully owns a gun does not mean he or she can bring it onto your property.

Question 2 – May an employee with a concealed firearms permit bring a gun into your facility? No. The statute only permits employees to keep a firearm in their locked vehicle (and employees have to keep it out of sight). You can still prohibit employees from bringing their firearms into your facility, or from taking their gun out of their car while on company property.

Question 3 – May an employee with a concealed firearms permit keep their gun in a coworker’s vehicle? Probably not. The statute’s plain language states that the gun must be kept in the “employee’s vehicle,” not a coworker’s vehicle. Thus, if two employees carpool, only the employee whose car they ride in may bring a firearm to work. It makes sense that no one else should have access to the employee’s gun.

Question 4 – May an employee from a different employer bring a gun onto your property? No. Only your employees have a right to bring a firearm onto your premises. Likewise, you may require that employees who travel to a customer’s facility not bring their guns along.

 Question 5 – May an employee keep multiple firearms in their vehicle? Yes, but only if the employee has a concealed weapons permit for each gun. Again, L.D. 35 only allows employees to carry guns for which they have a concealed firearms permit.

Question 6 – May employers require employees who bring their guns to work to park in a designated area? Probably. Nothing in L.D. 35 limits an employer’s ability to carve out a parking area for employees who bring their guns to work. The designated parking area should be for security reasons; it should not be punitive.

Question 7 – May and should employers require employees to notify them when they have a gun in their vehicle? Yes and yes. L.D. 35 only protects certain firearms – those an employee has a concealed weapons permit for – from exclusion. Consequently, employers have a right to keep other firearms off their property. Asking employees to notify their employer about bringing a gun to work seems to be a sensible practice. For added protection, employers should consider requiring employees to prove they have a concealed weapons permit. Employers can then create a system to monitor and periodically verify the status of an employee’s permit. Moreover, employers should also require employees to inform them about any changes to their permitting status.

 Question 8– May an employer physically search an employee’s vehicle to ensure compliance with L.D. 35? Yes. Employees in the private sector generally have very limited privacy rights while on company property. Before doing so, however, employers should notify employees about such a policy and distribute a written copy to each employee.

Question 9 – What penalties does an employer face for violating L.D. 35? Unclear. The statute contains no penalty provisions.

Question 10 – May an employer still have a firearm policy? Absolutely. Even with L.D. 35 employers can craft policies that provide maximum protection to employees and customers.

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7 Comments

Filed under Compliance, Employee Relations, Management

7 responses to “Ten Questions On Every Employer’s Mind About Maine’s New Bring Your Gun To Work Law

  1. Re: Question 5.
    I don’t believe the State of Maine issues a concealed firearms permit for a particular firearm. Therefore, one license will cover any number of guns in the car. But perhaps I am wrong.

  2. Rick, respectfully — I believe you’ve been given some bad advice.

    First Question 4: Even before this law was passed, holders of a valid concealed weapons permit could carry anywhere (except certain public buildings) unless the property was clearly posted. This referred particularly to premises where alcohol is served; which again had to be clearly posted.

    I doubt very highly that an employer could prohibit an employee from carrying a weapon onto another employer’s property. If so, this will be part of this law that will be immediately challenged.

    Question 5: The concealed weapons permit applies to the person, not the weapon. A concealed weapons permit in Maine relates directly to handguns; a hunting rifle simply can’t be concealed. The person that holds a valid permit can carry multiple weapons under the same permit; there is no requirement for an additional permit for each weapon.

    The fact is that nearly universally, people that go through the trouble of obtaining a concealed weapons permit are not the problem. Here’s an interesting data page: http://gunowners.org/fs0404.htm

    Hope that helps!
    Best thoughts!
    Jim

  3. Thanks Mike and Jim for your comments. I’m checking with the law firm Verrill Dana for their input on the above. I hope to post their response soon.

  4. There is a lot of confusion over how this law will be interpreted. I don’t remember who said this, but it’s appropriate:

    “Most legislation is simply the act of creating unintended consequences.”

  5. I am going to respectively disagree with the above comments. In all likelihood, it is going to take the courts or the legislature to resolve many of the issues percolating from this law.

    Regarding Question #4, the statute specifically allows only employees to bring a firearm on the premises. If a non-employee comes to a place of business, he/she is a visitor, not an employee and is therefore not covered under the law. Employers can bar non-employees from bringing a firearm on their site.

    Regarding Question #5: The statute refers to a firearm–singular; not firearms—plural. As such, only a single firearm can be brought onsite.

    Unfortunately, the language in this statute is not very clear. Hopefully the legislature will clarify it in the next session.

    From the beginning, this was a bad bill that has become a bad law. It infringes on the rights of Maine businesses. Employees have a constitutional right to bear arms. No one is questioning this. Businesses have property rights. They should be able to control what happens on their property. This law is anti-business because it takes that right away from businesses.

  6. joehyatt

    Respectfully I join the discussion. I tend more toward Jim B’s interpretation and quite frankly Rick’s final comments certainly indicate at least to me, that your interpretations of the two qestions I was going to comment on (4 and 5) may be significantly affected by your dislike for the bill / “bad law.” In HR I prefer dealing with facts over opinion and regardless of any opinion, Maine’s concealed weapons permit only speaks to the carrier of the permit, not any particular firearm(s). Firearms can be anything from a tiny, one-shot derringer whcih can be concealed in pair of shorts or a pants pocket all the way up to a .50 cal full length muzzle-loader. Concealed weapons permits are issued only to those who can demonstrate they’ve met the minimum standards set by the state including education on safety, proper handling and rights and responsiblities and they’ve undergone a complete background check.

    From my persepctive, such an employee is less of a concern in my view than a more criminally-inclined employee who may not bother with such formalities and requirements. He/she but admitedly statistically more likely he, is more likely to be impulsive and is not likely to apply for or probably won’t qualify for a concealed weapons permit. So, while all the hand-wringing is going on about this “bad law” it does absolutely nothing to address the reality of the real threat to workplace; the sociopathic employee.

    Historically, the most threatening, most dangerous employees, never bother with permits, nor are they very concerned with policies and rules. Protecting our company, employees, vendors and customers is the goal, and this discussion serves only to cloud an already muddy and emotionally contentious issue.

    To be effective at my job, I need an interpreation that is neither pro nor anti-gun.

  7. We’re having a good debate here. I think it is safe to say that either the courts or the legislature will have to sort out the details of this law.
    As I’ve discussed this law in various forums, it seems that the discussion boils down to those who support and those who do not support 2nd amendment rights. However, I do not believe that is the issue. I think it is a property issue and that’s why I think it is a bad law. Business owners have always had the right to control what happens on their property and this law takes that away. For me, it is that simple. I understand the arguments around the desire for self-protection and those who do not want anyone to carry a gun. I have deliberately tried to stay away from that because that clouds the issue. The right of the business owner to control what happens on his/her property has been infringed by this law.

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