Q&A with Nathan Whatley
State employers have flexibility
to ban, control firearms at work
Q: The number of applications for handgun carry licenses is at record levels, with twice as many applications being received by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in January as in January 2012. How have employers responded to this increased interest in defensive carry?
A: 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. 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.
Q: Is there a standard policy employers are adopting to allow some weapons in the workplace?
A: No. There really is no one-size-fits-all approach to banning or allowing weapons. Employers have to consider the unique elements of their industry, their workplace and their workforce when weighing the risks and liabilities. Fortunately, the current law provides employers with a great deal of latitude on crafting their own workplace weapons policies. As with any new law, though, there are still a lot of unknowns as to how all this will play out, if and when something goes wrong in the workplace.