On Thursday, March 18, 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels signed P.L. 90-2010 into law, allowing workers who may otherwise lawfully possess firearms or ammunition to keep firearms and ammunition in their locked vehicles in trunks, glove compartments, or out of plain sight while parked on company property. The law is a response to Indiana employers (and employers around the nation) who prohibit employees from having firearms anywhere on company property through corporate gun policies and workplace violence rules. The “take your gun to work” law, as termed by the media, now makes it illegal for Indiana employers to adopt any policy that prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, employees from having firearms in their locked vehicles while the vehicle is on company property. In addition, the law authorizes civil lawsuits by employees and allows for actual damages and attorneys’ fees for employees who prevail in a court action against a non-complying employer.
The law provides for a number of exemptions as a result of last-minute compromises and lobbying from various interested parties across the state. For example, the law exempts some public utilities, chemical plants and agencies whose drivers transport developmentally disabled people. The law also exempts schools, child care centers, domestic violence shelters and group homes.
Governor Daniels did admit that “the law does contain ambiguities that the General Assembly may wish to refine at some future date to avoid unnecessary litigation.” Indiana now becomes the 12th state with similar laws, joining Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.
What Does This Mean For Indiana Employers?
Opponents of the law fear that the law could lead to an increase in workplace violence. In a case of unsettling foreshadowing, the very next day after the Indiana General Assembly’s passage of the bill, a Portage, Indiana man who reportedly was angry about a poor performance review by his employer (the Indiana Department of Workforce Development) went to his car, pulled a shotgun from the backseat, and began shooting at his co-workers. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the incident, but many view this incident as a prime example of the potential dangers the law holds for employers.
Many Indiana employers maintain a variety of policies designed to curtail workplace violence. Such employers need to carefully review and scrutinize any corporate gun policies and workplace violence procedures currently in place. Many such policies may now be invalid under the new law, opening employers up to civil lawsuits for non-compliance. Employers are now left with the burden of balancing tailored policies that comply with the law against maintaining a safe workplace, free of violence.