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GUNS IN THE WORKPLACE: What Florida employers need to know

Tue March 5, 2013 Publications

Gun control laws are a hot–and controversial–topic in the news lately. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, it’s important for employers to understand the laws governing guns in the workplace in Florida.

Legitimately concerned with safety in the workplace, many employers are asking themselves questions like:

  • May I ask my employees if they have ever carried a gun to work and if they carry a gun in their car?
  • May I ban employees from bringing guns onto business property? And, if employees refuse to comply with the ban, can I fire them?

The general rule is that an employer cannot inquire about or prohibit an employee’s possession of a legally owned firearm when such firearm is lawfully possessed (as when said employee has a concealed weapons permit) and locked inside or locked to a private motor vehicle in the employer’s parking lot when the employee is lawfully on the employer’s property.

Florida Statute 790.251–Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act–was enacted in 2008 by Governor Charlie Crist, making Florida one of 17 states with “Guns at Work” laws in the country.

In drafting workplace safety policies, employers must be careful not to prohibit an employee from keeping a firearm locked in or to his or her vehicle. Employers can prohibit guns from being in company cars and from being carried about on the person on the company’s property. And, employers may terminate employees who do not comply. But, while employers can prohibit guns unless they are lawfully possessed and locked inside or locked to the private vehicle, employers cannot inquire or search to determine whether these conditions are met (i.e. whether the carrying is lawful or not, whether the employee has a concealed weapons permit, whether the gun itself is lawful).

If an employer has a reason to believe that an employee brought a gun which was not lawfully possessed and locked up, the
employer cannot lawfully conduct a search or inquire, but may refer the situation to law enforcement. In the event that the gun was not lawfully possessed and locked up, the employer may terminate the offending employee.

Exceptions to the statute include schools, correctional institutions, nuclear-powered electricity generation facilities, etc.