As predicted in last month’s EmployNews, Florida’s new “Take Your Guns to Work” law has prompted legislative efforts in other states to restrict employers’ ability to prohibit employees from keeping licensed firearms in their vehicles while at work. Last week, Georgia became the latest state to adopt a gun owners rights law. Despite heavy objections from groups representing Georgia employers, Governor Perdue signed into law a “Parking Lot Act” that prohibits certain employers from keeping employees from maintaining guns in their vehicles, or conducting searches of employee vehicles for firearms.
The new Georgia law is not as sweeping as its Florida counterpart. The law applies only to parking areas that are not owned by the employer. Employers continue to have the right to ban firearms from their property or to conduct searches of vehicles on their property. In other words, the law applies only to leased or other parking lots not owned by the employer.
Also, the law allows employers to ban employees from keeping guns in their vehicles not parked on company premises if the employer has taken disciplinary action against that employee. The Georgia law contains other exceptions for searches based on probable cause, as well as for certain security-sensitive workplaces.
In response to employer liability concerns over the new Florida law, Georgia will prohibit criminal complaints and civil suits against an employer based upon use of a firearm unless the employer knew that a criminal act would be committed on its premises. If an employee believes that his/her rights under the new law have been violated, he or she does not have a private cause of action against the employer, and only the Georgia Attorney General may bring an enforcement action.
Despite these attempts to balance employers’ and gun owners’ rights, Georgia employers remain concerned that the new law will interfere with efforts to prevent workplace violence. They are also concerned that the liability protection provisions are insufficient to deter injured parties from suing the employer if an employee injures them through unlawful use of a firearm. Employers with Georgia operations should review their firearms policies to determine if changes need to be made in conformance with the new law.