Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that prohibits most employers from adopting a rule or policy prohibiting employees from possessing firearms or ammunition in an employer’s parking lot, so long as they are kept in a locked vehicle and out of sight. This year, the Indiana legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, another bill further restricting employers from regulating the possession of firearms by their employees. Specifically, the new law prohibits employers from requiring their employees or job applicants to divulge information about their ownership, use, possession or transportation of firearms or ammunition. The new law also prohibits employers from conditioning employment or any term of employment on employees or applicants giving up any rights they have as gun owners. Like the “bring-your-gun-to-work” law, this law allows a plaintiff to sue for a violation and recover actual damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees, as well as to obtain injunctive relief. The new law differs from the old one, however, in that it also allows for exemplary or punitive damages when employers knowingly or willfully violate the law.
Because most employers do not typically request information about gun ownership from employees or applicants, this law may have little impact on a significant portion of Indiana employers. It is most likely to be of concern to those employers that adopted comprehensive responses to last year’s law. Employers that, for example, required that employees disclose to the employer if they would be carrying a firearm or ammunition in their vehicle or provide copies of a valid Indiana gun license, will need to eliminate those practices under the non-disclosure law. Employers should therefore review their firearm/ammunition policies before July 1, 2011, to ensure that they do not require employees or applicants to disclose this type of information in violation of the new law.
Finally, it is important to note that the non-disclosure law taking effect on July 1 does not expand circumstances under which employees may bring a gun on their employer’s premises. The law in Indiana still allows an employer to adopt and enforce policies banning firearms and ammunition anywhere on its property, except as specifically provided by the prior law. This new law simply prevents employers from asking employees or applicants to disclose information about their gun ownership, possession, use, storage or transportation.