A new law in Florida will soon prevent employers from prohibiting employees licensed to carry concealed weapons from keeping firearms in their locked vehicles at work.  The law, dubbed the “Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008,” takes effect July 1, 2008.

The law creates a new Section 790.251 of the Florida Statutes.  Under that section, employees are protected provided they have a license to carry a concealed weapon and provided the weapon is locked inside or “locked to” a private motor vehicle in a parking lot.  The law also applies to customers and “invitees” who have a similar right to possess firearms.  The law does not permit employees, customers or “invitees” to actually carry a gun into the workplace.

In addition to barring employers from preventing employees from keeping guns in their vehicles, the law also prohibits employers from the following:

  • Asking employees, customers or invitees about the presence of a firearm inside a vehicle;
  • Searching a vehicle to ascertain the presence of a firearm;
  • Conditioning employment on whether or not the employee or prospective employee may legally possess firearms;
  • Using employment agreements that prohibit an employee from keeping a legal firearm locked in his or her vehicle;
  • Firing or taking other adverse action against an employee because the employee kept a legal weapon in his or her vehicle; and
  • Firing or taking other adverse action against an employee for exercising his or her right of self-defense.

The law requires that the Attorney General of Florida enforce the protections of the Act but, notably, it also provides that any aggrieved employee, customer or other invitee may bring a civil action in court for violation of rights protected under the Act.  If successful, the employee, customer or invitee is entitled to recover damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.

The new law does not apply to schools, state correctional institutions or company property where national defense, aerospace or domestic security operations are conducted or to businesses involved in the manufacture, use, storage or transportation of combustible or explosive materials regulated under state or federal law.

Evidently anticipating the possibility of lawsuits against employers arising from the presence of firearms on company property, the new law also provides that public and private entities have no legal duty to prohibit firearms as allowed by the law, search vehicles or discipline employees who legally bring firearms onto the property.  Employers that strictly follow the law are granted immunity from tort claims.

“Employers need to realize that the practical effect of this legislation is to create a new class of protected workers and business invitees – those who believe they have been discriminated against because they own a firearm,” said David M. DeMaio, managing shareholder of Ogletree Deakins’ Miami office.  “Those individuals are now on the same legal footing as employees who believe they have been discriminated against because of their race, age or sex.  This law gives gun owners the same right to sue their employers.”

Additional Information

Should you have any additional questions about the new law or its ramifications, please contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 866-287-2576 or via email at clientservices@ogletreedeakins.com.

Note: This article was published in the April 16, 2008 issue of the Florida eAuthority.

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