July 29, 2011

New gun law may force workplaces to tweak policies

Employees with concealed weapon permits can't be prohibited from keeping guns locked in their cars.

By J. Hemmerdinger jhemmerdinger@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Maine businesses may need to rewrite employee handbooks and company policies to reflect a new concealed weapon law, say employment lawyers and human resource consultants.

In June, Gov. Paul LePage signed L.D. 35, a law that says employers cannot prohibit employees from keeping a gun in their car at work, so long as the employee has a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

The employee's car must also be locked, and the gun must not be visible.

Experts say the bill, which becomes law in September, may override companies' policies prohibiting employees from having dangerous weapons, such as guns and knives, on company property.

"There is no question, (employers) may need to make modifications to their employee handbooks," said David Ciullo, president of Portland-based Career Management Associates, a human resources consulting and executive search firm.

"The law is passed, so we (must) deal with it," said Rick Dacri of Kennebunkport-based business consulting firm Dacri & Associates LLC. "If you have current policies around the issue of weapons, you need to modify them."

Experts say firms may want to consider writing new policies that both comply with the law and maximize workplace safety.

Doug Currier, head of the labor and employment law group at Portland-based Verrill Dana LLP, said employers might consider requiring employees to disclose if they have a concealed weapon in the car, or make a copy of employees' concealed weapon permits.

Other companies might want to track where employees with concealed weapons park their cars, or require they park in a designated area, said Currier, whose firm recently published an online list of frequently asked questions about the law.

Dacri said companies should notify employees of policy changes, educate managers about the new law, review security procedures, consider implementing a workplace violence prevention program and remind employees that weapons must be kept locked in their cars, and not visible.

Though many companies will need to revise policies, weapons largely aren't on the minds of executives, said Ciullo at Career Management Associates.

"The reality is that we have heard very little," he said. "It's not the buzz right now."

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, said restrictions against concealed weapons in cars at work infringe on the right of individuals to protect themselves.

And, he said, "It is not the company's purview to have influence over what's in your vehicle."

Cebra added that holders of concealed firearm permits have undergone extensive scrutiny by the state.

Currier said most of his corporate clients believe the new rules decrease workplace safety and restrict the rights of business owners to regulate their property.

"From an employer's perspective, there is really nothing good that can come from having a gun at work," said Currier.

Currier said 17 other states have laws similar to L.D. 35.

And he said the law only applies to holders of concealed weapons permits.

Employers can still prohibit employees without concealed permits from bringing guns to work, Currier said.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhemmerdinger@mainetoday.com

 

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