Published in the Union Leader (2/27/2017)
Q. I understand Governor Sununu enacted his first law allowing gun owners to carry concealed loaded guns without a license (https://legiscan.com/NH/text/SB12/2017) – effective immediately. Does that mean I need to allow employees to carry guns in my workplace?
A. Business owners and managers are rightly concerned by this newly-enacted regulation, for the safety of their employees. Prior to its enactment, police chiefs and local officials had discretion to decide if someone was “suitable” to carry a loaded gun concealed. Now, if a person is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun, he or she can carry it concealed without a license. This means that an employee, who lawfully possesses a gun, could carry it concealed in her handbag, backpack, briefcase, or jacket, for example. Some employees may view this new law as permitting them to carry loaded concealed weapons into the workplace. That is not true.
NH employers could face liability for violence that occurs in the workplace In NH, there have been cases where businesses were held responsible for violence that occurred in the workplace when the employer was aware of the potential danger. Federal OSHA law contains a general duty clause requiring employers to provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Employers could also face worker’s compensation claims for injuries sustained by an employee in the workplace.
NH businesses can continue to enact policies that mitigate against potential risk of workplace violence. Businesses do not have to allow employees to carry concealed weapons in the workplace. In NH, businesses may continue to prohibit weapons in the workplace because the prohibition is relative to the business’s property. Businesses that choose to prohibit guns, including concealed guns, in the workplace should promulgate a “Weapons in the Workplace” policy and distribute to all employees. That policy should include language that employees have no expectation of privacy in company property (including, but not limited to desks, drawers, filing cabinets, etc) and in their personal belongings when located on business premises. In addition, businesses can require that employees sign an acknowledgment allowing businesses to search their personal property when the company has a reasonable belief that the employee is violating company policy.
While this new law gives gun owners the ability to carry a loaded weapon without a license, it does not prohibit businesses from establishing and enforcing its own anti-weapon policies if it chooses to do so.
Beth Deragon can be reached at [email protected].
Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association. We invite your questions of business law. Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to: McLane Middleton, 900 Elm Street, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to [email protected]. Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.