A federal court in Tallahassee, Florida yesterday refused to enjoin the new Florida law that grants certain employees the right to keep guns secured in their vehicles while they are at work. The new law took effect on July 1, 2008. As a result of this ruling, Florida employers, among other things, must allow workers who have valid concealed firearms permits to bring their guns to work provided the guns are secured in their private vehicles in a parking lot.
The ruling came in response to a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) challenging the new law on constitutional and statutory grounds. In refusing to enjoin the new law’s protection of employees with concealed-carry permits, the court held that FRF had failed to show that the new law was likely invalid as applied to a business’ employees.
In a somewhat unexpected twist, however, the court reached the opposite conclusion with respect to a business’ customers and other invitees. The court’s decision to preliminarily invalidate the law as it applied to customers turned on the peculiar – and somewhat circular – way in which the new law defined “employee” and “employer.” Under the law, an “employer” is defined as a business that has “employees.” But the same law defines an “employee” as a person who has a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm. This necessarily means that the law covers a business only if it has at least one worker with a valid concealed-carry permit. Unlike the definition of “employee,” however, a “customer” need not have a concealed-carry permit. According to the court, this definitional morass means that a business with at least one employee with a concealed-carry permit must allow a customer to have a gun in a vehicle in a parking lot, while an identical business without an employee with a concealed-carry permit can bar the same customer. The court found this distinction irrational and, therefore, likely unconstitutional. As a consequence, businesses may bar customers and other non-employee invitees from bringing guns onto their property.
As a result of yesterday’s ruling, businesses in Florida should be aware of the following:
- An employee with a valid concealed-carry permit must be permitted to keep a gun in his or her private vehicle in a parking lot while he or she is at work.
- An employer may not ask a worker with a valid concealed-carry permit about the presence of a gun in his or her vehicle in a parking lot.
- An employer may not take action against a worker with a valid concealed-carry permit based on a statement about the worker having a gun in his or her vehicle in a parking lot, including searching the vehicle.
- An employer may not condition employment on whether the worker has a concealed-carry permit.
- An employer may not fire or otherwise discriminate against a worker with a valid concealed-carry permit for having a gun secured in his or her vehicle in a parking lot.
- The same prohibitions do not apply to non-worker customers and business invitees.
Should you have any additional questions about this ruling, contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 866-287-2576 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article appeared in the July 30, 2008 issue of the Florida eAuthority.