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Feb 17, 2020

Regulating Firearms in the Workplace

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution grants the people the right to keep and bear arms. No, I’m not talking about “bear arms” as in our fuzzy friends like Smokey or Pooh, and I’m not talking about “bare arms” as in ditching the long-sleeves as soon as summer hits. The right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment means that people have the right to possess weapons, such as firearms, for their own defense.

Although people have the right to possess firearms, many workplaces have enacted policies and procedures that prohibit employees from bringing firearms to work. It holds true that employers are free to prohibit firearms within the actual confines of the workplace, but what about the parking lot? There are several states, including North Dakota, that have passed laws that allow an employee to keep firearms in a personal vehicle in the parking lot, so long as it’s locked up and others do not have access to it.

The Law:

Under North Dakota law, a public or private employer may not prohibit an employee from keeping a legally owned firearm in the employee’s privately owned vehicle, so long as the firearm is locked inside the vehicle. Likewise, an employer may not prevent the employee from entering the parking lot or the employer’s place of business because the employee’s private motor vehicle contains a legal firearm being carried for lawful purposes, that is out of sight within the employee’s vehicle. An employer may not inquire as to whether the employee has a firearm in their personal vehicle in the parking lot. Further, if the employer is informed that an employee has a firearm in their vehicle, the employer may not take any action against the employee, so long as the vehicle is privately owned by the employee and the firearm is lawfully owned.

It is important to note that North Dakota law does not give an employee carte blanche to possess or exhibit a firearm in the workplace. An employee must still remain in compliance with all other laws relating the possession and use of firearms. Moreover, they do not have any right to exhibit the firearm on company property for any reason other than a lawful defensive purpose.

There are also exceptions to the blanket prohibitions. These laws do not apply if the workplace is a public or nonpublic school, a correctional facility or institution, or a state hospital. Additionally, these laws do not apply if the property is used for activities involving national defense, aerospace, or homeland security, or if the property’s primary business involves the manufacture, use, storage, or transportation of combustible or explosive materials. Lastly, if the vehicle the firearm is being stored in is owned, leased, or rented by the employer, then these laws do not apply.

Any violation of these laws carries a potentially steep penalty. Any person damaged by a violation of the law has a right to bring a civil action to enforce their rights to recover any personal damage suffered. The prevailing party in a lawsuit brought under this section is entitled to costs and attorney fees.

The Takeaway:

Considering the great number of gun violence and mass shootings that have affected the United States over the years, the thought of allowing firearms on workplace property may be scary. Employers are encouraged to review any workplace policy addressing the possession of firearms to ensure compliance with North Dakota law. It is also important employees know if they carry a firearm with them in their privately owned vehicles the doors must be locked and the firearm should not be visible through the windows. Additionally, managers and supervisors should be educated on the North Dakota gun laws as they relate to the workplace.

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Marissa R. Cerkoney l Lawyer
2272 Eighth Street West l Dickinson, ND 58601
701.225.LAWS (5297) tel
701.225.9650 fax

Allison Mann l Lawyer
2272 Eighth Street West l Dickinson, ND 58601
701.225.LAWS (5297) tel
701.225.9650 fax