One of the questions our members often ask us is how far their employer can go in limiting their possession of firearms. Can an employer fire you just for owning a gun? Are policies that prohibit employees from carrying a concealed handgun on the employer’s property enforceable, and if so, what can the employer legally do to enforce them? Further, if an employee cannot bring their gun into the workplace because of the employer’s policy, can they at least leave it in their vehicle in the parking lot?
Guns in the Workplace
Missouri law specifically addresses the power of employers to prevent their employees from carrying concealed handguns into the workplace pursuant to their concealed carry permit. Section 571.107.1(15) of the Missouri statutes says that any employer can prohibit the unauthorized concealed carry of handguns on their property by permit holders, or anyone else for that matter. If the employer’s buildings or premises are open to the public, meaning that anyone can generally come in and out of the property as they wish, the employer is required to post signs on the premises saying that carrying a concealed handgun is not allowed. These signs are supposed to be posted in a conspicuous place at a minimum size of 11×14 inches with writing not less than one inch high.
If you can’t have your concealed handgun with you in the building, how about in the parking lot? Fortunately, having a firearm in your vehicle is perfectly fine under the statute, as long as it is not removed from the vehicle or brandished on the property (e.g. showing it while parked in your vehicle in the parking lot). Employer-owned vehicles, however, are under the purview of the employer and may be off-limits if a policy is in place. This could include vehicles like delivery and repair vans, and even personal vehicles being used for company business.
Let’s say that you accidently bring your concealed handgun into your office building, not having seen the signs posted prohibiting concealed firearms on the property. If you are caught, fortunately you will not be criminally charged. However, you will undoubtedly be told to leave and/or put your handgun in your vehicle. If you refuse to leave and a police officer arrives, the law provides that you are only subject to a citation of up to $100 and removal by the officer. However, if it happens again within six months, the fine goes up to $200, and you can have your CCP suspended for up to a year. If it happens once again, for the third time in less than a year from the date of the first incident, the fine goes up to $500, and you will have your CCP revoked and will be ineligible for a permit for three years.
While it is good news that bringing a concealed handgun onto work property is not a criminal offense generally, your employer is not barred from disciplining you for doing so, and there is even a special mention for state employees who work for Missouri’s general assembly, supreme court, or a county or municipality. Subsection 1(6) of 571.107 says that any of these governmental entities may have a rule or other type of restriction (ordinance, regulation, etc.) that prohibits or limits concealed carry in a portion of one of their buildings, and the restriction may explicitly provide for non-criminal disciplinary measures for violating the statute, rule, or ordinance! This discipline can legally include even outright firing!
Gun Ownership at Home
What if you or your spouse keep firearms at home? Can your employer discriminate against you or fire you just for having a Glock at home? As unfair as it sounds, yes, employers do have the power to discriminate against you (e.g. pass you over for a raise, demote you, fire you etc.) based on the fact that you are a gun owner. Being a gun owner is not a protected class under the Constitution which would exempt a person from Missouri’s at-will employment law. In fact, in 2012, a Missouri House bill – HB 1621 – was introduced that would have explicitly given persons having a CCP or legally using guns legal protection from such workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, this legislation did not pass, and legal gun owners stand the risk of disciplinary action for the mere acts of owning a firearm or having a spouse that owns one. Generally, Missouri’s at-will employment law means that, except for reasons of being a certain race, gender, age, religious orientation, etc., an employee who is not under a contract that provides they may only be fired for certain things, may be fired for any legal reason whatsoever, at any time. Unfortunately, possessing a firearm is a valid legal reason at this time!
The short of it is that any employer in Missouri has quite a lot of power to regulate the possession and use of firearms both on their property and even on the property of their employees. An employer may establish a policy prohibiting concealed carry on their premises or even ownership and may punish employees who do not abide by that policy, and may also fire an employee for the mere act of possessing a firearm at home. Being an at-will employee means you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, just not for an illegal reason. While you may have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, you do not have a Constitutional right to employment by that particular employer.
In order to avoid any potentially negative incidents, if you know your employer does not want concealed handguns on the premises, leave yours in the car! An employer has no right to keep you from having a concealed handgun in your vehicle as long as it is not taken out or brandished, unless, of course, they have an outright ownership prohibition policy in place. Regrettably, there seems little that can be done to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of firearms ownership other than being careful as to whom you discuss firearms with at work.
If you have any questions, give us a call and we will be happy to help.
Does your employer have any restrictions on your owning or possessing a gun? If so, tell us about it.