Minnesota's recently-passed concealed weapons law raises a host of questions for Minnesota employers. Among the most pressing are whether Minnesota employers are still permitted to prohibit guns in the workplace, and whether new gun safety policies should be adopted. Unfortunately, until Minnesota courts have had a chance to interpret the new law, few answers will be known with absolute certainty. Contrary to some implications appearing in the popular press, however, Minnesota's new law does not appear to change employers' abilities to adopt and enforce rules banning weapons at work. Employers who wish to exclude weapons from the workplace but who have not yet adopted policies prohibiting weapons may wish to do so now.
Minnesota's new conceal and carry law establishes new procedures for obtaining permits to carry concealed firearms. The law is designed to eliminate most of the discretion previously involved in the granting of such permits, and it is believed that significantly more permits will be granted now than ever before. The law also contains a provision making it a petty misdemeanor offense to carry a concealed gun into a private business if the business has posted a sign at each entrance indicating that guns are banned, and has "personally" demanded that the gun carrier comply with the gun ban. Under this provision, an employer or other business may not make use of the petty misdemeanor charge as a means of enforcing a gun prohibition unless the sign and personal request rules have been followed.
Significantly, however, the law does not prohibit employers from adopting rules prohibiting employees from possessing weapons while working, nor does the law prevent employers from enforcing those rules through employee discipline, termination, or other methods used prior to passage of the new law. In fact, the law specifically states that employers may adopt their own rules respecting gun possession, except that employers may not prohibit the lawful carrying or possession of firearms in parking facilities.
It is not known at this time whether the new law will cause more Minnesotans to carry concealed weapons, but some experts have said that such an outcome is likely, at least in the short run. For this reason, employers who wish to exclude weapons from the workplace should take the following actions if they have not yet done so:
- Adopt and publish a policy prohibiting employees from possessing guns or other weapons in the workplace. Make clear that employees will be disciplined or terminated for violating the policy. Weapon policies should be included in employee handbooks, and published in a manner that is effective to actually notify employees. No special signage or personal requests are required for employers to enforce their own workplace policies against employees by using normal disciplinary methods. Employer policies should not prohibit gun possession in the company's parking lot.
- Employers whose businesses are open to non-employees may now have heightened concerns about gun possession by individuals not subject to employee policies prohibiting guns. Employers with such concerns may wish to post signage at entrances notifying those entering that guns are banned on the premises.
- If a business wants to enforce its gun ban by using the new law's petty misdemeanor rules regarding possession, the following requirements must be met. A "conspicuous sign" must be posted at every entrance reading "[Name of Business] BANS GUNS IN THESE PREMISES." Additionally, the business must "personally infor[m] the person of the posted request and deman[d] compliance." The statute does not state whether the personal request must be repeated daily, or whether a one-time company meeting in which employees are told orally about the signs and are demanded to comply may be sufficient to satisfy the requirement. It is possible that such a group oral request would be sufficient; employers would be wise to include such an oral statement in employee training.
For most employers, the signage and personal request rules will be impractical, unpalatable, or impossible. An employer's failure to use the signage and personal requests prescribed by the law results only in the employer's not being able to rely on the criminal law system to enforce its gun ban, however; the employer is still free to enforce its gun policy against employees by using the methods employers have traditionally used to enforce work rules. While employers are wise to have some concerns about the impact of the new law on the workplace, they should remember also that their right to require employees to comply with lawful requirements–including the requirement that employees not possess weapons in the workplace–remains intact.