As an employer, you have an obligation to keep employees and guests safe in your workplace. Different people have different perspectives on safety. An employee working a late shift might feel safer having a weapon available to them as they come and go from work, but other employees or patrons might feel safer in a business with no weapons around. If you’re reading this article, you probably have your own concerns about weapons on your premises. So what can you do if an employee is bringing a weapon to work against your wishes? In many cases, you can discipline the employee, but it’s important to understand your obligations and rights as an employer so you can protect yourself from liability.
The Prevalence of Firearm Injuries
The prevalence of firearm injuries is a serious problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 39,707 people died from firearm-related injuries in 2019. The CDC also reports that 20% of medically-treated firearm injuries are unintentional. Additionally, firearm violence has cost this country tens of billions of dollars on a yearly basis. Ultimately, a concern about how to handle employee firearms in the workplace is a legitimate concern.
Maryland Gun Laws for the Workplace
Employees having guns on your premises can be a source of great unease. If you’re concerned about an employee bringing a gun to work, you should know that no Maryland statute states an employer has to allow an employee to bring a gun to work.
In general, Maryland law doesn’t allow people to carry guns, transport them on public roads, or keep them in public parking lots unless the person is legally carrying the gun and has a valid permit. When it comes to employees, there is an exception to this rule if:
- The employee is a supervisor,
- The employee is carrying or transporting the gun as part of their employment,
- The employee is carrying or transporting the gun within the confines of the business where they are a supervisor, and
- The business owner or employer authorizes the employee to have the gun.
This rule doesn’t make it mandatory for employers to allow guns at work; rather, it gives employers the option to authorize certain employees to have guns at work.
Laws for Safety in the Workplace
Now that you know what your general obligation is for allowing guns at your worksite, let’s talk about your obligation to keep visitors and employees safe. Your safety obligations can help you decide how to address an employee who is bringing a weapon to work.
Keeping Employees Safe
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration require that you provide a safe and healthy workplace devoid of serious recognized hazards. Keeping your workplace safe involves following many regulations and making timely reports regarding workplace injuries. The presence of guns could jeopardize the safety of your workplace. If you have concerns about guns in your workplace, speak to a skilled attorney about how to maintain a safe and compliant business as an employer.
Keeping Visitors Safe
If an employee’s gun causes injury to someone visiting your business, you could potentially be liable for the harm. One area of Maryland law that could hold you liable for a dangerous condition your employee creates is premises liability law. Under premises liability law, different groups of people have rights to different levels of protection from harm on your property. The group of people most relevant to this conversation are called “invitees.” If you’re an employer, an invitee is normally a person you allow into your workplace for business purposes. You can be liable for injuries an invitee sustains at your workplace if the following happens:
- You fail to take reasonable and ordinary care to keep your workplace safe or
- You fail to protect the invitee from unreasonable risks that you know about but that aren’t obvious to the invitee.
Invitees can be clients, customers, independent contractors, business associates, or employees.
If you don’t thoughtfully address how to manage the issue of guns in your workplace, you could create a dangerous situation that opens you up to government sanction and civil litigation from an employee or guest. Even if you’re found not liable after a complaint, the process of litigating a complaint can take a lot out of you financially and emotionally.
Firing Employees Who Bring Guns to Work
In many cases, you can legally fire an employee for bringing a gun to work because Maryland is an at-will employment state. At-will employment means that you can fire your employees who don’t have employment contracts for any reason that isn’t discriminatory or retaliatory. Maryland and federal law prohibit employment discrimination. Discriminatory reasons for firing an employee include:
- Marital status,
- Asserting employee rights, and
- Fulfilling civic or military obligations.
As you can see, bringing a gun to work is not a protected category when it comes to wrongful termination.
Although having a gun at work isn’t a protected activity, you need to be careful with the substance and enforcement of any anti-gun employment policies you have. If your gun policies or enforcement disproportionally affect a group of employees who are part of the same protected category, you could be liable for employment discrimination. You should speak to an experienced employment legal matters attorney when you’re formulating your business’s employment policies to help make sure you’re protected from liability.
Seek a Legal Team to Help Protect You and Your Business
Unfortunately, the workplace can be a challenging environment to manage. Employers often have to worry about injury and legal liability in the same instance. You can deal with a lot of this worry by enlisting the help of an experienced employment legal matters attorney. We are focused on labor and employment issues at Smithey Law Group, LLC, and our lawyers have 158 years of experience combined. We are top-rated, award-winning, and recognized as leaders in our field. We want to help you build a secure workplace. Call us at 410-881-8572 or contact us online for help with your employment law issues.