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Oklahoma employers have flexibility in banning, controlling firearms

Q&A with Nathan Whatley

published in The Oklahoman | February 26, 2013

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Nathan Whatley was featured in a Q&A with The Oklahoman discussing employers rights under Oklahoma law in banning or controlling firearms in the workplace. With the number of applications for handgun carry licenses at record levels in Oklahoma, many employers are taking a fresh look at their workplace policies.

“When Oklahoma’s open carry law first went into effect in November, many employers quickly instituted or updated policies to ban weapons in the workplace, primarily because of liability concerns,” Whatley told The Oklahoman. “More recently, though — as mass shootings in schools and traditional workplaces have made the news — more and more employers have been calling our lawyers to rethink their policies over concerns of being a victim zone in the event something tragic were to happen. Specifically, they are asking how they can allow weapons in a responsible way.”

Whatley said that many employers are asking about how much control they are allowed to exercise if they decide to not completely ban firearms from the workplace. Oklahoma law actually affords employers flexibility in crafting their workplace weapons policies.

“The statute allows employers not only the right to prohibit firearms on their premises, but also to control the possession of weapons there. This means an employer can ban weapons in some of their facilities but not others, or allow some employees to carry but not others,” Whatley said. “Similarly, a business can prohibit customers from carrying weapons, but still allow employees to carry, or allow customers to carry while restricting employees from carrying firearms. Employers also can set rules for where and how weapons may be kept on its premises.”

McAfee & Taft is hosting a free webinar presentation titled “Guns or No Guns — Weighing Workplace Weapons Policies” on March 6, 2013.