Carrying A Firearm On The Job

Knowing the legal ramifications of carrying a firearm at work is essential.

You decided on a preferred firearm for defensive use and have purchased it. You sorted yourself with your carry permit or chose to exercise your Constitutional Carry rights. You got yourself a proper holster. You’re getting comfortable carrying it around town and know the relevant laws. However, there’s the challenge of carrying where you spend a significant portion of your day…

Of course, I’m referring to work. The 9 to 5, the grind, the drag. You may be able to take time off, but however, the threat of violence doesn’t, and at work, you can be especially vulnerable, considering your focus is on your job, and potentially not on your surrounding situation. Of course, the easiest response to this situation is to be prepared and carry your firearm to work, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s not that simple.

It may be legal, or it may not be legal. Like everything else firearms-related in this country, it varies from state-to-state. Unless your employer is the government, which in that case, it is most likely against the law or at least workplace policy to be armed while working, most employer-owned facilities are private property, and they are free to set whichever policy they want in regards to firearms on property. Where the legal aspect comes into play depends on the consequences in the eyes of the law for carrying a firearm into an area where a private property owner doesn’t permit it.

For example, here in Florida, firearms prohibitions on private property do not carry the force of law. You can be armed on private property, even in defiance of a sign stating that guns are prohibited, and not suffer any legal consequences, as long as you vacate the premises with your firearm immediately. Of course, this concept does not apply to what Florida law determines as “places of nuisance”, i.e. bars, nightclubs, and things like schools and other educational institutions. The only time you are in violation of a law is if your refuse to leave, then you can be charged with armed trespass.

So, in Florida, if an employer catches you on property while armed, you can be asked to leave the premises, and will most likely suffer job-related consequences as well. Florida is an at-will employment state and you can be let go from a job for almost any reason at all. Even if there’s no gun prohibition in the employee handbook, a supervisor can decide at that moment that he or she is bothered by you being armed, and can terminate your employment and ask you to leave. However, you won’t suffer any legal consequences provided you vacate the premises in a timely manner.

On the other hand, firearms prohibitions by private parties have the force of law in some states, such as Texas, and Nebraska, where if there is a sign posted according to state regulations, you can be subject to penalties even if you unknowingly venture into the premises where the sign is posted. In the case of the workplace, you can be in violation of the law if your employer has properly-formatted “gunbuster” signs posted. So, you could be let go from your job, and suffer legal consequences as well.

So am I to be unarmed while going to and from work?

Not necessarily. While in some states, the law isn’t clear on this, in other states, the law has been amended to allow for “parking lot storage”, i.e. securing your firearm in your vehicle before entering your workplace. Florida has one such specific law, which allows for this, with certain obvious exceptions like educational facitilies, correctional institutions, and businesses where “substantial activities involving national defense, aerospace, or homeland security” are conducted.

So, in states where this is allowed, you can drive from home to work armed, and even if your employer owns the parking facility, you can legally store your firearm, preferably in a secure vehicle safe designed for the purpose. It’s not ideal, but in the case of private property rights, the owner’s wishes overrule your own.

What if there is no specific prohibition?

Outside of the corporate world, where boilerplate documents outlining company policies, including (unfortunately) a prohibition on privately-owned firearms on the premises are the norm, many medium-sized and small businesses don’t have a policy on guns in the workplace, and may not even have a formal employee handbook. When it’s a small operation of say, ten people, often the management will not see the need, nor have the time for such things. In this case, you can actually consider yourself fortunate, since the decision is technically yours. Carry on the job if you wish.

However, my personal recommendation is to be discreet about it. Concealed is concealed, as it were. Even if the dialog in the workplace turns to guns and firearms rights, it’s probably best to keep quiet about it. Unless you work at a gun store or something - in that case it’s probably a job requirement to carry! But all kidding aside, it’s usually best to keep a low profile in regards to one’s stance on firearms while at the workplace. Also, don’t upset the applecart. If there’s no policy on guns, don’t ask about it. And certainly don’t do anything to make your employer consider drafting one. No policy is better than having a policy, in this case.

If you are lucky

If you are lucky enough to be able to carry your firearm on the job, I highly recommend seeking out additional training in close-quarters situations, workplace violence mitigation, as well as unarmed techniques. Miami’s own DA1 Industries provides regular and customized instruction for individuals and companies alike in this unique area. Full disclosure, I’ve taken some of their courses as part of research for future content. I can guarantee that you will learn a lot from them. You might “get your ass handed to you” at first, but experts like these guys will build up your skillset into an effective component of your defensive strategy. If you are going to be “that guy”, learn how to be “that guy”.

Knowing is half the battle

If it really is unclear though - it’s not too difficult to find out in most cases. Employee handbooks and company rules and regulations cover a multitude of things, not just firearm policies. Ask to see the handbook or the rule documents. Tell your boss or HR department that you just want to familiarize yourself with various company policies so you can be a more effective employee. It’s not a lie actually - you are just being vague. In any case, a little knowledge goes a long way.

Big thank you to handgunlaw.us for being an excellent resource on the legal side of this issue.

Usual disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer - I’m offering up my own knowledge and research. Please do your own investigations before determining what methods are legal and best for you.