Georgia’s new gun law has implications for employers

by Leanne Mehrman and Chelsey McDade

Georgia’s newest gun law, the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, goes into effect on July 1 and greatly expands the list of places where licensed gun owners may legally carry their weapons to include schools, government buildings, churches, and bars. Employers, however, can take advantage of certain limits in the law.

Although the law is known as the “guns everywhere” law, employers should be aware of the law’s limits and consider how it affects personnel policies and workplace safety.

Under the new law, Georgia employers may continue to prohibit the possession of firearms on their property as long as they own the property or have legal control of it. According to the new law, “Private property owners or persons in legal control of private property through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to control access to such private property shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property.”

The new law doesn’t significantly alter Georgia’s 2008 gun law allowing firearms in employers’ parking lots. Under Georgia’s Business Security and Employee Privacy Act of 2008 (better known as the “bring your gun to work” law), employees may lawfully bring concealed weapons onto an employer’s property as long as they possess a valid Georgia firearms license and store the weapons out of sight in a locked trunk or glove compartment in a vehicle.

The 2008 law prohibits employers from establishing, maintaining, or enforcing any policy or rule that allows them to search employees’ or invited guests’ private vehicles on company property.

Both the 2008 law and the new law allow employers that own or are in legal control of employee parking lots to restrict access to the lots. Such employers may enforce policies prohibiting the presence of firearms on company property. That exception sharply contrasts with similar laws in several other states that provide a blanket prohibition on employer policies restricting the possession of firearms on company property.

Advice for Georgia employers

Although the Georgia gun laws appear to provide a strong exception for employers that own or have legal control of their property, employers should review their policies and modify them as appropriate. Employers must pay close attention to policies addressing workplace violence, workplace searches and seizures, and substance abuse, which often include provisions allowing searches of employee vehicles on company property.

For more information on how Georgia’s gun laws affect employers, see the July issue of Georgia Employment Law Letter.

Leanne Mehrman is an attorney with Ford Harrison LLP in Atlanta. She can be reached at Chelsey McDade is a student at the University of Georgia School of Law.

About Georgia Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Georgia Employment Law Letter, and written by attorneys at the law firms of FordHarrison LLP and Taylor English Duma LLP. GEORGIA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to individual problems but rather to provide information about current developments in Georgia employment law. Questions about individual problems should be addressed to the attorney of your choice. Georgia does not certify specialists in the law, and we do not claim certification in any listed area. Contact attorneys at FordHarrison LLP or Taylor English Duma LLP.
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1 Ken O'Shields
11:04:32, 02/07/14

Am I missing something or does this article say that employers do and do not have the right to restrict employees from bringing their firearm to work and leaving it in their car? Paragraphs 4 & 6 seem to contradict each other. Just like the GA law leaves too much to interpretation by law enforcement on what is a public assembly, this law needs to be simplified with the second amendment as its source and leave emotions out of it.

2 Jim Dean
12:47:38, 11/01/16

Ken, and anyone else who sees this. They were a bit ambiguous here.
Basically, under the law, if an employer wants to stop an employee from actually bringing a gun and keeping it in a locked vehicle, they have to provide secured, fenced, gated parking with security.
Here’s the specific code section O.C.G.A. § 16-11-135
Public or private employer’s parking lots; right of privacy in vehicles in employer’s parking lot or invited guests on lot; severability; rights of action

(a) Except as provided in this Code section, no private or public employer, including the state and its political subdivisions, shall establish, maintain, or enforce any policy or rule that has the effect of allowing such employer or its agents to search the locked privately owned vehicles of employees or invited guests on the employer’s parking lot and access thereto.

(b) Except as provided in this Code section, no private or public employer, including the state and its political subdivisions, shall condition employment upon any agreement by a prospective employee that prohibits an employee from entering the parking lot and access thereto when the employee’s privately owned motor vehicle contains a firearm or ammunition, or both, that is locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or area within such privately owned motor vehicle, provided that any applicable employees possess a Georgia weapons carry license.

(c) Subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply:

(1) To searches by certified law enforcement officers pursuant to valid search warrants or valid warrantless searches based upon probable cause under exigent circumstances;

(2) To vehicles owned or leased by an employer;

(3) To any situation in which a reasonable person would believe that accessing a locked vehicle of an employee is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety; or

(4) When an employee consents to a search of his or her locked privately owned vehicle by licensed private security officers for loss prevention purposes based on probable cause that the employee unlawfully possesses employer property.

(d) Subsections (a) and (b) of this Code section shall not apply:

(1) To an employer providing applicable employees with a secure parking area which restricts general public access through the use of a gate, security station, security officers, or other similar means which limit public access into the parking area, provided that any employer policy allowing vehicle searches upon entry shall be applicable to all vehicles entering the property and applied on a uniform and frequent basis;

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