(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.