No Guns or Weapons SignTennessee employers– you can generally keep weapons off your property, but if you want to prosecute violators, you need the right sign. And, effective July 1, 2016, the state has changed what it says is an acceptable sign.

The new requirements are very specific. The notice must:

  • Be displayed in “prominent locations including all entrances primarily used by persons entering the property;”
  • Be “plainly visible to the average person entering the property;”
  • Be in English, and it also may be duplicated in any language used by persons who frequent the property;
  • Include the phrase “NO FIREARMS ALLOWED” and that phrase must be at least one inch high and eight inches wide;
  • Include the phrase “as authorized by T.C.A. § 39-17-1359” (apparently in any size you want); and
  • Include a “pictorial representation of the phrase ‘NO FIREARMS ALLOWED,’” and if you were wondering what exactly that means, the statute tells you. It must include a “circle with a diagonal line through the circle and an image of a firearm inside the circle under the diagonal line.” The “pictorial representation” must be at least four inches high and four inches wide, and the diagonal line must be at a 45 degree angle from the upper left of the circle to the lower right side of the circle.

If the building or property is posted with a proper “no firearms” notice, then possession of a weapon on posted property is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. Even if you are a handgun carry permit holder, you can still commit a Class B misdemeanor for possessing a weapon on posted property. However, handgun-carry permit holders are permitted to keep their firearms and ammunition locked inside their vehicles even if the property is posted in accordance with Tennessee’s so-called “guns-in-trunks” law.

There is a grace period for compliance with the new law. Individuals, businesses, and government entities that were already posted as no-weapons areas as of January 1, 2015 have until January 1, 2018 to replace the signs with signs that meet the new statute’s requirements. If, however, you are late to the “no weapons” posting party, make sure you get a compliant sign.

 

More Guns in Trunks---Mississippi Supreme Court Amends Wrongful Discharge DoctrineGiven Mississippi’s guns in trunks statute, can you legally terminate an employee for keeping a gun in his car at work? The Mississippi Supreme Court in Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation answered this question, certified from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, as a “no”. The company terminated Mr. Swindol when it learned that he parked his car in the company parking lot with a firearm locked inside. Mr. Swindol argued that his termination violated Mississippi’s statute (45-9-55) that specifically prohibits an employer from having a policy that would not allow a person to store a firearm in a locked vehicle on company property. The Fifth Circuit noted that there was no case law in Mississippi on this issue and asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to weigh in.

Mississippi has long followed the rule of employment-at-will, which means that either party may terminate a non-contractual employment relationship for “good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, excepting only reasons independently declared legally impermissible.” Until the Swindol case, impermissible reasons under state law were limited to situations where an employee was fired for refusing to participate in an illegal act or where an employee was discharged for reporting illegal acts.

The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the “guns in trunks” statute adds another exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. It held that it is a wrongful discharge to fire an employee solely for having a firearm in a locked personal vehicle on company property and the employer could be held liable.

Employers should take note of this decision and may need to amend any firearm restrictions in company policies. It is important to note that the statute only protects the possession of a firearm in a locked personal vehicle on company property. It does not require an employer to allow firearms outside the vehicle on company property.

gavel-and-handgun

Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a law prohibiting employers from firing employees for complying with the state’s “guns-in-trunks” statute. The new law creates another exception to Tennessee’s employment-at-will doctrine, which states that an employer can terminate an employee with or without cause and with or without notice. The law passed despite opposition from some business groups, who argued that the bill’s passage would infringe upon business owners’ private property rights.

‘Guns-in-trunks’ 2.0 ends a two year debate over the scope of the 2013 Tennessee “guns-in-trunks” law. Guns-in-trunks required employers to allow their employees with handgun carry permits to bring their firearms onto company property, so long as the employee kept their gun locked inside their vehicle out of “ordinary observation.” Since the law’s passage in 2013, some members of the state’s legislature contended that the law prohibited employers from firing employees for complying with the law. Tennessee’s then attorney general disagreed, opining that the new law only decriminalized the carrying and storage of firearms under certain circumstances and “has no impact on the employment relationship between an employer and an employee.”

‘Guns-in-trunks’ 2.0 ends that debate. The new law clarifies that an employer, regardless of its size, is prohibited from discharging or taking any adverse employment action against an employee “solely” for complying with the guns-in-trunks statute. The new law only protects employees who possess valid handgun carry permits recognized by the state of Tennessee. If such an employee is discharged or subject to an adverse employment action solely for complying with ‘guns-in-trunks,’ then the employee “shall have a cause of action” to enjoin future acts violating the statute and “to recover economic damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs,” according to the new statute.

The 2.0 version of ‘guns-in-trunks’ applies to terminations and adverse employment actions occurring on or after July 1, 2015. Besides parking areas, the law does not affect an employer’s right to prohibit firearms in other places on its premises.