Thanks to legislation that went into effect in January of 2016, licensed gun owners in Texas are now allowed to carry weapons in holsters as long as those weapons are visible. This is an addition to an older law allowing for the concealed carry of weapons in the state with a license. Licenses were available to most Texans with some exceptions (those exceptions are beyond the scope of this article).
While this open carry law gives Texans the freedom to publicly protect themselves, there are limitations. Under the law, Texans still may not be able to openly carry in some places, including schools, sporting events, airport secure areas, polling places, and where private business owners do not allow it.
Here is a brief overview of current handgun laws in Texas, and what rights employers have when employees want to carry their handguns to work.
Texas Firearms Laws and Workplace Policies
According to Texas law, Second Amendment rights are afforded to private citizens, but these rights do not carry over into the workplace. There is no employee protection under the Amendment. This means employers are not required to allow their employees to carry guns to work.
The Texas state Constitution follows the U.S. Constitution in upholding an employer’s rights to accept or reject firearms on their grounds, within their offices, or on their production lines.
Can an Employer Ban Firearms at Work?
The Second Amendment applies differently to public and private entities. For this reason, non-governmental employers may either accept or reject firearms on their premises.
Every Texas employer should have a written policy in their handbook or provided during the hiring process for employees to sign. This policy should clearly outline places where firearms may be kept on the business premises, such as in someone’s car.
Employers should also post signage in break rooms, outside entry doors, or on guard gates indicating their firearm policy in order to avoid any ambiguity.
An employer’s ability to limit carry is rooted in their property rights. That means, therefore, that some employees, such as those who work in the field, may have more extensive rights when they are not on company property. These employees must be aware that other limitations may still restrict their ability to carry, including bans on open carry in places like hospitals, places of worship, and some college campuses. Employees should be aware of all these potential issues before carrying on a job that requires travel between various work sites.
If an Employer Chooses to Ban Firearms, What Must They do?
Employers should have some form of written language that specifies rules both for concealed weapons and open carry.
It is important to note that the language required by Texas statutes applies only when an employer wishes to prevent visitors from bringing firearms onto the employer’s premises or when an employer wishes to prevent employees from bringing firearms to work AND ALSO hold them criminally liable if the employees violate the rule. In such case, open carry language, as explicitly specified in Section 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code, must specify that employees are not permitted to open carry on this premises. The sign must be presented both in Spanish and English, with one-inch block letters in contrasting colors. It must be placed conspicuously in all entrances to the business.
Section 30.06 addresses concealed handguns and must be presented similarly.
That said, employers may still prohibit employees from bringing firearms onto their premises without the signage.
Employers may impose strict rules to keep firearms from being introduced inside their locations, but Texas laws protect citizens who wish to keep weapons in their vehicles in a company parking lot. Provided the vehicle is locked and the employee is properly licensed, all an employer can do is include a statement in the employee handbook that reaffirms this fact. This statement might be “Employees must keep firearms securely locked in their vehicles.”
How Should an Informative Firearms Policy Read?
Every employee handbook should have its own section pertaining to a company’s firearms policy, including how guns should be stored, where on the premises gun lockers can be found, where signs can be found, reprimands for failing to abide by policy, and why the policy exists in the first place. It should state the company’s cooperation with Federal and state laws.
It is advised that any employer without handgun policies enact them immediately. As suits can arise from inadvertent violations of a gun owner’s Second Amendment rights, having this policy in place will preserve corporate values, protect employees’ rights, and maintain peace at work.
If you are unfamiliar with drafting corporate policies, or need help with language pertaining to gun rights at work, an employment law attorney should be your first call.