It’s iconic Americana – the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walk down an empty main street in Tombstone for their showdown with the Ike Clanton gang. But, can you refocus and replay that scene one more time but now with the viewpoint of business owner or business manager. What image do you see?
That’s right – not a single person in town is working.
Now let’s turn to today. Worker productivity has skyrocketed, growing by over 80% from 1973 to 2011. But sixty percent of lost workdays are attributable to stress, so anything that increases stress levels can temper those overall gains in productivity. Has no one considered the Tombstone effect on productivity?
22 states currently having laws on the books limiting employer’s ability to ban firearms in parking lots. Plus, despite 32,000 gun-related deaths per year, legislative control of guns (and there 88 guns for every 100 Americans) is politically unthinkable. Thus, there is an ever growing open carry movement.
Will these guns make people feel safer and more productive, or increase stress levels and send people home? 80% of people who don’t own guns say that the increased presence of guns would lessen their safety; over 70% of gun owners concur. They would feel less safe if more guns were in their neighborhood. Simply stated, the Bring Your Gun to Work laws that have been introduced offer security to few and concentration on productivity to none.
Since OSHA was passed in 1970, employers have been conscientiously improving their workplace safety policies. But, with OSHA silent on guns, the question remains: what can or should employers do about guns at work? The case of Mullins v. Marathon Petroleum Co., L.P., 2014 WL 467240 (E.D. Ky) suggests an interesting starting point.
Kentucky law states that “no person…shall prohibit any person who is legally entitled to possess a firearm from possessing a firearm…in a vehicle on the property.” In this case, Mullins had a hunting rifle in plain sight in the back of his car and, as a result, was disciplined for violating the Company’s weapons policy that did not prohibit weapons but did require that those weapons be registered.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky agreed that a policy regulating firearms on company property does not contravene Kentucky law. Because Marathon did not forbid registered guns but only unregistered guns on its property, it was not an impermissible prohibition of firearms on its property. Id. at *3.
Requiring employees to register firearms being brought on company property with the HR department can be a sensible starting point for employer’s seeking guidance in this emerging area of law. Wyatt Earp would concur because it is damn close to what he did in Tombstone: guns had to checked at either the sheriff’s office or at the Grand Hotel.
Such employer action might be enough to maintain overall employee stress levels manageable while honoring statutory prerogatives on gun possession. If so, your business won’t go the way of Tombstone on October 26, 1881 –shut down because of dramatically decreased employee performance.