New Development on Employment Termination for Guns in Company Parking Lots

Last month, affirming a district court ruling, the Tenth Circuit ruled against a group of employees challenging their employment termination for possessing firearms in their cars on their employer’s parking lot.

The court considered — and rejected — the following arguments by the terminated employees:

  • The Oklahoma statute that authorized the company’s firearms policy is unconstitutional as applied to them.
  • A 2004 amendment to that staute prohibiting such policies retroactively applies to them and protects their right to have firearms in their vehicles.
  • The district court erred in “determining a private property owner- employer may impose restrictions upon the lawful keeping and transportation of firearms in locked vehicles parked in” the employee parking lot which is also available for use by the public, thereby depriving the employees of an “inherent, constitutional, fundamental right to transport and keep firearms.”
  • The district court “erred in speculating the Oklahoma Supreme Court would approve of the discharge of an at-will employee for the lawful exercise of his inherent, constitutional, and fundamental right to transport [and] keep” firearms in his vehicle.
  • The district court erred in finding plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because the company’s search of plaintiffs’ vehicles “was a governmental search . . . by reason of [the] crucial participation by” the Sheriff.
  • The district court erred in denying plaintiffs’ claims for false imprisonment and invasion of privacy.

This case is just one battle in this war, even in Oklahoma. As the second rejected argument indicates, the Oklahoma statute was amended to protect gun-toting employees. I understand legal challenge to this amendment is now underway.

Seems to me that prohibiting employers from enacting no-gun rules, and enforcing them with employment termination if necessary, is a violation of the employer’s property rights, which ought to include determining who — and what — enters the property.

Various states’ courts and legislatures are lining up on both sides of this hot issue. I understand in our home state of Missouri a pro-gun bill like the Oklahoma amendment has been introduced.

One interesting thing about the Tenth Circuit case is how the employer found the guns — conducting canine drug-sniffing searches of vehicles. Originally looking for drugs, but the dogs were trained to signal the presence of drugs or firearms.

This suggests an answer to the skeptics who say rules about guns in parking lots are meaningless, because unenforceable. Of course it may seem somewhat Gestapo-like to routinely walk through the lot with trained dogs, but it looks like it can be a successful means of enforcing the rule (if the rule is lawful).

See the case upolding the employment termination: Bastible v. Weyerhaeuser Co., No. 05-7037 (10th Cir. February 13, 2006), summarized at BLR.com, “Court Upholds Employer’s Policy on Guns in Parking Lots”

See also related posts in this Blawg:

Photo credit: tuchodi via flickr
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