HOUSTON– LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire –In the wake of the shocking Virginia Tech tragedy, bills pending in the Texas Legislature to dramatically expand employee rights to carry concealed handguns onto their employer’s premises could face severe hurdles, according to David L. Barron, an attorney in the Labor and Employment practice of Epstein Becker Green Wickliff & Hall in Houston.
The pending legislation would make it illegal for employers to prohibit employees from keeping their guns locked in their cars, and would require employers to provide an alternative location to store weapons.
“Currently, most employers prohibit guns on their property, including those licensed under the concealed carry laws,” said Barron. “Understandably, most employers don’t want the liability for maintaining a “gun-check” closet.”
Further, under the new laws, employees could sue their employers for wrongful termination if they are discharged in violation of the new law, which opens up a new class of those who may allege discrimination – gun owners.
“The opposition to the proposed legislation will become stronger as a result of the violence at Virginia Tech,” said Barron. “However, while workplace violence cannot be completely avoided, there are a number of prudent steps that can and should be taken by employers to prevent the sort of tragedy we’ve recently seen.”
Some suggested practical steps include the following:
Implement a comprehensive policy addressing violence in the workplace and train employees and supervisors on what to do if a problem arises. Companies should adopt a zero tolerance policy not only to acts of violence, but to threats or joking comments involving violence.
Have an evacuation plan, and inform employees of whom to call and what steps to take to report suspicious or violent conduct.
Decide how employees will be warned if there is an incident in the workplace. Consider multiple channels such as a PA system, mass email, a working loud speaker system, or channeling communication through selected personnel to maximize quick dissemination of warnings.
Have a plan in place for dealing with the “problem termination” of an employee you suspect of a propensity towards violence. Do not create a confrontation at a time and place that could lead to violence.
Take early and reasonable steps to address inappropriate conduct and language from an employee. As an immediate action, use your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to preempt potential violent behavior. Although legal advice should be sought in this area, EAP attendance in conjunction with disciplinary action can sometimes be an effective tool.
“Society has changed, and it is well-accepted fact that employers must confront violence in the workplace, or face significant liability,” said Barron. “This is a tall task indeed for most employers, but one that can be managed with effective policies, trained supervision, and careful screening practices.”
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