Today, it seems mass shootings are the norm. As a country that protects the rights of its citizens to bear arms, the United States is in a unique situation where gun violence often fuels the need for citizens to embrace this constitutional right. This results in the increase of gun purchases in the name of personal safety. Since most people spend more time at work than they do anywhere else during the week, the need to feel safe in the workplace increases as well.
For some, purchasing and carrying a handgun is the solution. For others, the presence of a gun in their midst compromises their safety. Where does this leave the employer? Very often in the middle, trying to appease frightened employees on both sides of the issue. Open but very clear communication between the organization and the staff is essential when addressing employees who want to bring guns to the workplace.
Fear for Personal Safety
Ironically an employee’s fear of gun violence is often the spark that ignites the desire to own a handgun. People want to take matters of personal safety into their own hands. Case in point; the Las Vegas mass shooting took place on Sunday October 1st, 2017 and the very next day, Monday October 2nd, 2017 gun-maker stocks rose significantly. Why?
- Psychological need for personal safety
- Fear of tighter gun restrictions triggers the need to purchase a gun
These reactions to mass violence put employers into a unique situation; they need to appease employees’ need to feel safe in the workplace while also complying with CCW (conceal carry weapons) laws. No matter what the reason, employers do have some control over company-owned property. But it does not extend to an employee’s personally owned vehicle parked in a company-owned parking lot.
At the time this blog was written, around half of all U.S. states, including Ohio, have statutes that require employers to allow employees to store firearms in their own personal vehicle. However, employers don’t have to allow workers to store weapons in company-owned vehicles. Employees are only protected when the firearm is legally owned, concealed and secure within the vehicle’s locked trunk or glove compartment.
Employer Safety Concerns
However, the very thing an employee looks to for “peace of mind” can present additional safety concerns for an employer. Therefore, it is helpful to share concerns with employees where situations are ripe for workplace violence if guns are readily available, such as:
- Disgruntled employee who was just let go
- Unstable co-worker, with substance abuse issues and/or mental illness
- Volatile events (i.e. strikes, protests)
The bottom line when it comes to safety is that the employer has all of the burden and employees are required to comply. But to nurture a positive work environment, communication about what is and is not allowed in the workplace must be handled in a caring manner. In other words, employers must be clear on the rules while being sympathetic to the concerns and fears of their staff.
Reassure with Clear Policies
No matter what side of the gun issue, it is the obligation of the employer to provide a safe environment for their employees within the confines of state and federal law. Still, how the stance on the gun issue is presented to the staff is key. Make sure to:
- Acknowledge employees’ concerns for safety
- Establish clear gun policies and procedures for the workplace
- Educate employees on safety measures in place for their protection
Follow these three steps and provide a safe work environment with employee buy-in. When employees feel their personal rights as legal gun owners have been considered as well as the organization looking out for their personal safety, everyone wins.
Address Guns in the Workplace with Clear Policies and Procedures
SACS Consulting & Investigative, Inc. can help your organization establish clear, concise policies and procedures for Weapons including Concealed and Open Carry. Make sure to have the proper procedures in place for High-Risk Workplace Issues to nurture a positive workplace where everyone feels safe. Contact us to speak with one of our HR specialists today.