International Door & Operator Industry

MAY-JUN 2018

Garage door industry magazine for garage door dealers, garage door manufacturers, garage door distributors, garage door installers, loading docks, garage door operators and openers, gates, and tools for the door industry.

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12 International Door & Operator Industryâ„¢ Brian J. Schoolman is an attorney with Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, NC. Safran Law Offices has focused on the Construction Industry for more than thirty years, and is proud to have worked with and supported IDA from its inception more than two decades ago. For more information, please contact Brian at bschoolman@ safranlaw.com, or visit us at www.safranlaw.com. LEGAL&LEGISLATION Continued from page 11 to permit their employees to carry weapons, or to prohibit them from doing so. The only recognized limits to this power are not gun-specific, but rather stem from laws of more general application. For instance, OSHA guidelines on workplace safety require employers to protect workers against known hazards. Similarly, employers must prevent conduct constituting harassment in the office. Door dealers may also prohibit customers from bringing weapons into their places of business. However, in at least some states, a business must post special signage at the entrance of the business to advise visitors and employees of the no-carry policy. One of the most extreme examples is Tennessee. Under Tennessee law, an employer must post notices in prominent locations, including all entrances to the property or building where possession of weapons is prohibited. The notices must either state the exact or substantially similar language from the law regarding such notices, or else display the international symbol of a gun with a circle and slash through the prohibited item. Both HR consultants and safety advisors agree that businesses should develop a written policy for handling whether and how to allow firearms to be carried on company property. The policy will ultimately be one of the key pieces of evidence in the event of either workplace violence or a claim of infringement of rights. Therefore the policy must be vetted to be sure it complies with state and local laws, and also to clearly designate who the policy applies to. If certain persons are permitted to carry firearms, such as security officers or techs in the field, the policy should be clear on explaining how and why there is disparate treatment. Other issues to be considered once a policy is in place include whether and how to conduct background checks, how to handle reports of violence or violations of the weapons policy, and whether and how to conduct training for both weapons use and avoidance of violence. All of these issues should be taken into consideration so as avoid creating or expanding exposure to civil or even criminal liability. Issue: Whose Freedom Takes Priority Dealers are forced to balance their employees' right to bear arms with the competing right of workers to be protected from workplace hazards and violence. Where states have stepped in to determine how business owners should weigh those interests, they have often passed laws to protect employers who permit the carrying of weapons at work. For instance, Texas law states that the presence of firearms or ammunition at the worksite does not by itself constitute a failure to provide a safe workplace under the state occupational safety laws. Similarly, Tennessee law states that allowing employees to carry handguns at work does not constitute a safety hazard. As employers, the most important thing that IDA members should do is develop a policy, and then stick to it. Dealers have the right to decide what their employees and customers may do when coming to their offices, and they also have the right to decide what their employees may do in the field as a condition of employment. Failure to abide by established policies can be punishable by consequences up to and including termination. One limit to the reach of employers' power is the personal vehicle of the employee. About half the states in the country have passed "guns in trunks" laws, which permit employees to possess lawfully-owned firearms on company property so long as the weapons are concealed from view, and locked in a personal vehicle. Many of these parking lot statutes, however, do not permit employees to store firearms in company vehicles, nor do they give employees the right or power to carry a weapon into the office over the objection of the employer. In states where these types of laws exist, employers are frequently prohibited from searching the personal vehicles of employees for firearms, and can face civil or even criminal penalties for violating the employees' "right to carry" rights. Several states have also passed anti-discrimination laws to prohibit employers from treating gun owners differently. Indiana has prohibited employers from asking whether an employee or applicant is a gun owner, unless the weapon would be used as part of the individual's job duties. Other states, including Florida and North Dakota, prohibit employers from conditioning employment status on whether an individual has a concealed carry permit or stores a weapon in his vehicle. Conclusion There are no obvious answers when it comes to arming employees. Depending on your location, your state may give you more or fewer tools on controlling your employees outside of the office. In the office itself, the laws are nearly unanimous in allowing an employer to create a gun-free zone, but beyond the four walls, those employees are likely permitted to store their guns in their cars in the parking lot. Thus, the best advice I can offer is to research your legal rights, and develop a specific written policy on how you want to proceed. Then have that policy reviewed by your lawyer and your insurer, to make sure you have covered yourself against as many unexpected risks as possible.

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