Florida’s “Bring Your Guns To Work Law”: Can Employees Have Their Guns at Their Florida Workplace?
Although Florida has been devastated by several high-profile mass shootings in recent years, state law continues to favor a strictly pro-gun rights interpretation of the Constitution. This means that even when Florida employers wish to restrict the presence of firearms on their own property for safety reasons, they may not do so under Florida law (with teachers being an exception, given recent law expected to be signed by Govenor Ron DeSantis)
In 2008, then-Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law the “Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act.” According to the Act’s preamble, the Florida legislature wanted to “codify the long-standing legislative policy of the state that individual citizens have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” In the legislature’s view, this right includes “a citizen’s lawful possession, transportation, and secure keeping of firearms and ammunition within his or her motor vehicle.”
To that end, the Act imposes the following restriction on most public employers and private businesses:
- An employer may not “condition employment” on the fact that an employee owns a legally licensed firearm.
- An employer may not prohibit an employee from “keeping a legal firearm locked inside or locked to a private motor vehicle” parked in the employer’s parking lot, so long as the firearm itself is “kept for lawful purposes.”
- Similarly, a business cannot prevent a customer or invited guest from keeping a “legally owned firearm” locked in their car while on the business owner’s property.
- A business also may not make any “verbal or written inquiry” about the presence of a firearm inside of the car of an employee, customer, or invited guest.
- A business may not search vehicles in their own parking lots for firearms. Only “on-duty law enforcement personnel” may conduct such searches “based upon due process.”
- Employers cannot fire or “otherwise discriminate” against any employee based on his or her decision to exercise their “constitutional right to keep and bear arms or for exercising the right of self-defense,” provided that the employee does not “exhibit” a weapon on company property “for any reason other than lawful defensive purposes.”
There are a handful of exceptions to these rules. Schools traditionally have not been required to permit firearms on their property (* but see new law regarding teachers, mentioned above). Neither do correctional institutions (prisons), nuclear power plants, or employers associated with national defense, homeland security, or the aerospace industry. And employees may only invoke the provisions of the Act to keep firearms in their own vehicles. In other words, if an employee drives a vehicle owned or leased by the company, the employer does not have to allow the employee to keep a gun inside.
Protections Against Civil Suits
It should be noted the Act also provides employers with immunity from civil suits arising from any “actions or inactions” taken in connection with the law. This means that as a general rule, an employer may have defenses to claims of workplace violence caused by individuals who legally brought their firearms onto the employer’s property. On the other hand, an employer can be liable for damages if it violates the rights of an employee, customer, or other invited guest under the Act.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how state gun laws may affect your business or gun laws in the workplace, you should contact a qualified Florida employment law attorney today.