By Cherylann Occhipinti Campbell, PHR, SHRM-CP
The Texas Open Carry law, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2016, has once again raised questions for employers. It did not change an employer’s rights to prohibit weapons on private property. If you already have a well-written weapons policy in your Employee Handbook, you should be fine. Open Carry allowances are subject to the same rules already in place with the Concealed Handgun Laws.
Did you say you don’t already have a policy in place? That’s a mistake because if you do not, then you risk your employees deciding for themselves what is and is not allowed. A good policy clearly states whether or not weapons are allowed in the workplace, company vehicles or any time an employee is conducting company business. While employers cannot fire or discipline employees just for carrying weapons, they can deal appropriately with employees who violate their policies.
Since 2011, Texas employers cannot prohibit employees from keeping lawfully possessed weapons in their locked (personal) vehicles while parked in company parking lots and garages. In fact, you should remove any policy language that implies a prohibition of guns anywhere on company property. See Tex. Lab. Code Section 52.061. If any employee uses a personal vehicle to conduct company business for you then your policies would apply.
For your customers, contractors, and vendors: pursuant to Section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code, private businesses may prohibit the carrying of handguns whether concealed or open, into their place of business by posting signs on the property to prohibit entry by a licensed holder with a handgun. These signs must comply with Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code. Those laws require that the signs be written in English and Spanish and appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height. Again, this applies to both concealed and open carry situations.
The new year is a good time to review (or establish) your employee handbook and policies to be sure they are current and cover ‘hot’ topics like gun possession, smartphones, social media, overtime hours and employees who complain online about work conditions. As many of you have heard in my SCORE HR101 classes, it can be a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ situation. Investing time and resources in policy development will save you headaches, stress and money later. Happy New Year!
About the Author
Cherylann Occhipinti Campbell is the owner/advisor of C2HRSolutions LLC, a local human resources and training company serving small and mid-size businesses in Central Texas. Check out Cherylann’s HR101 series offered by SCORE and contact her for expertise to handle your challenging employee matters. www.c2hrsolutions.com or 512.517.7589.