The passage of an Oklahoma law last year allowing employees to keep firearms in cars parked on company property isn't OK with David Johndrow. "It's a bad law, basically," says the 37-year-old co-founder of HRLogix, an Oklahoma City-based HR software company with 20 employees and $3 million in sales.
Johndrow isn't alone. Last year, Pizza Hut fired a delivery driver who shot and killed a pistol-toting holdup man. The driver's act was judged justifiable self-defense and no charges were brought against him, but he was fired for violating his employer's ban on guns in the workplace.
The issue of workplace firearms is heating up, with several states passing laws expanding employees' ability to carry weapons on the job, says gun-rights activist Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Washington. Oklahoma has been joined by Ohio, where Gottlieb spearheaded a lawsuit to relax gun laws, and Minnesota.
Gottlieb says employers have the right to prohibit guns in the workplace, but workers should be allowed to keep firearms in their parked cars for convenience and protection. If they're not, employers "could be liable for damages," he says.
A 2003 Minnesota law requires employers to let employees keep guns in cars in the employee parking lot. That law was later judged unconstitutional--a decision now being appealed, according to Mary Krakow, an employment attorney with Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron P.A. Employers who want the law struck down are concerned about retaliation by workers who have been disciplined or fired, Krakow says. "One fear is that a hot-headed employee will go get that gun and return to the workplace with it," she says. "Many employers say they need more latitude to ban guns from the workplace."
A 2004 report by the Society for Human Resources Management suggests relatively few small businesses are part of that group--it found 42 percent of small firms had no written policies on weapons at work, compared to 14 percent of big companies.