Editor's Note: This is the latest in a series online articles this week by the labor and employment team at the law firm of Wright Lindsey Jennings of Little Rock examining key trends for employers and the workplace in 2023.
Federal and state firearm laws can complicate employers’ efforts to enforce workplace policies on guns.
This is an Opinion
For instance, Arkansas precludes complete prohibition of firearms on employer property. This can be difficult to balance with the fact that — according to a 2020 National Safety Council study — workplace assaults resulted in more than 20,000 workplace injuries that required time away from work.
So, how do employers make sure they have sufficient policies to help provide a safe workplace?
Private employers in Arkansas can generally ban weapons in the workplace by providing proper notice, such as having employees sign something acknowledging they have reviewed the policy or a written notice placed at the entrance to the premises that is clearly readable at a distance of not less than 10 feet and that states that “carrying a handgun is prohibited.” See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-306(18).
Employees can, however, still transport and store legally owned and possessed firearms in private employer parking lots so long as the firearm is stored out of sight inside a locked private motor vehicle. See Ark. Code Ann. § 11-5-117(b).
For public employers, employees are similarly allowed to carry concealed firearms (CCL) in publicly owned and maintained parking lots — so long as it is in the person’s locked motor vehicle. CCL licensees are also able to carry concealed firearms in most publicly owned facilities except for firearm-sensitive areas designated by Arkansas State Police, public schools and day care centers, facilities operated by the state prison system, and courtrooms or locations of administrative hearings conducted by a state agency.
Some public employees (such as county employees, countywide elected officials, justices of the peace, and governmental employees who work at certain places inside courthouses or county buildings) are able to legally carry concealed firearms in courtrooms or locations of administrative hearings.
And not to be overlooked are the expanded rights afforded to enhanced concealed carry licensees (ECCL). ECCL licensees are allowed to carry concealed firearms without the threat of criminal liability anywhere so long as the area is not:
- Privately owned or operated by an entity that prohibits the carrying of concealed firearms by written or verbal notification (including, without limitation, private universities or private colleges, churches or other places of worship, and portions of establishments (given a few exceptions) licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises or where beer or light wine is consumed on the premises)
- A firearm-sensitive area designated by Arkansas State Police located at the Arkansas State Hospital, UAMS or a collegiate athletic event
Despite the fact that the ECCL licensee can’t be criminally liable, private employers can still ban ECCL licensees from carrying on their premises. The Attorney General's Office and Municipal League have also stated that public employers can prohibit license carriers from carrying firearms on property they exercise control over, including property owned by cities, counties or municipalities.
To ensure compliance, employers should regularly confirm their workplace violence policies follow state and federal law. A few key points to be aware of:
- Employers cannot be held liable in a civil action for damages, injuries or death resulting from employees’ or non-employees’ actions involving firearms stored in parking lots unless the employer intentionally solicits or procures the person’s actions
- Firearms possessed in a parking lot do not constitute a failure (at least under state law) of a private employer to provide a safe workplace
- Private employers may terminate employees who unreasonably display firearms in plain sight of others in the workplace, parking lot or motor vehicle
- While ECCL-holding employees may be exempt from criminal liability, nothing under Arkansas law prohibits public or private employers from banning the concealed carry of firearms in workplaces or at worksites, excluding the courthouse employees mentioned above