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If your state allows concealed carry, then firing an employee who is licensed to carry, just because he or she keeps a gun in the car while parked at work, may invite a wrongful discharge suit.

April 28th, 2012  |  Lorene Park

On April 26, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed summary judgment in favor of an employer that fired an employee for keeping a gun in his car (Mitchell v University of Kentucky). In finding that the employee’s wrongful discharge claim should have been allowed to proceed, the court pointed to Kentucky statutes that preclude employers from prohibiting individuals with concealed carry licenses from storing firearms in their vehicles, even while on property owned by the employer. Although the case involved a public employer, the Kentucky statute applies to private employers as well. Further, it provides that an employer that fires an employee for lawfully storing a gun in his or her vehicle could be liable for civil damages.

Although most states which allow licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons also give property owners the right to ban firearms on their premises, Kentucky’s exception to this general rule is not unique. Indeed, a growing number of states are passing laws where the right to ban firearms does not extend to vehicles in employer parking lots. Although there are variations among these states, the laws typically provide that an employer may not prohibit an employee who has a valid concealed carry permit from keeping a firearm in the employee’s vehicle as long as the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible. Some of these states also provide that an employer is not liable in any civil action for damages, injury, or death resulting from another person’s actions involving a firearm transported or stored pursuant to the gun law, such as the theft of a firearm from an employee’s vehicle. States with these types of laws include Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.  Employers can expect to see additional state legislation on this important topic.