Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Wisconsin's Concealed Weapon Law Means for the Workplace and Employment Law

Recently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the concealed weapon bill which allows residents 21 years and older to carry a concealed weapon – a handgun, electric weapon such as a taser, knife (other than a switchblade knife), and billy club – almost anywhere in the state, including most places of employment. Wisconsin will issue licenses to carry concealed weapons, subject to background check and training requirements. Since concealed weapons will be allowed in the workplace, what does that mean for employers and employees?

The new law contains provisions that address the workplace. Specifically, employers may still prohibit employees from carrying weapons during the course of their employment (at both work sites and off-site locations where employees are working). Significantly, however, employers cannot prohibit an employee from carrying or storing a weapon in his or her own vehicle even if that vehicle is used in the course of employment or where the motor vehicle is driven or parked on property used by the employer. In addition, an employer is not permitted to bar an individual from employment because he or she is licensed to carry a weapon.

Also expect to see somewhat comical signs posted in certain places. Businesses prohibiting persons (e.g., employees, visitors, customers, etc.) from carrying a weapon on their premises must post signs (no less than 5" x 7") prominently near entrances and other locations where persons entering the property or building can be expected to see the signs.

The law also protections employers from certain liability if they do not prohibit their employees from concealing. However, given the newness of the law and the many situations that can arise, it is not known how far the no-liability provision will extend. The provision would also not save employers from liability under federal law.

Like any new law implicating the workplace, this statute promises to create lots of new work for us employment attorneys. Employers will need to begin drafting policies to address the law and employees who want to conceal on the job or in the workplace will present issues for employers and counsel. Interesting times ahead!

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