Friday, October 2, 2009

Another state enters the “guns at work” fray

Michigan employers may soon have to add firearms ownership to their “do not ask” list of questions. A bill has been introduced by Michigan State Representative Paul Opsommer to prevent employers from asking potential employees questions about whether they own or know how to use guns. The Firearm Ownership Employee Protection Act (h.b. 5330) is designed to protect citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights, according to Opsommer.

“Unless firearm ownership is directly related to an established and bona fide occupational requirement for the job, there is no reason for an employer to ask questions about whether a potential employee owns or knows how to use a gun,” Opsommer said in a press statement. “We also need to ensure that employers cannot create over-reaching company policies that violate the Constitution and provide an excuse to terminate employees whose political views differ from those of management. People who lawfully own firearms and are following appropriate storage laws should not lose the ability to transport them in privately owned vehicles.”

“A person who legally owns a firearm needs to have a way to store it as they are going to and from work, home, hunting, or any other lawful purpose,” said Opsommer. “People shouldn’t have to feel that their cars are going to be searched just because they told their boss they are going hunting after work.”

If passed, Michigan’s Firearm Ownership Employee Protection Act will prohibit employers from asking certain questions during the hiring process and making employment decisions based on legal ownership or use of a firearm that is unrelated to employment. Employers will also be prohibited from requiring applicants or employees from waiving their rights under the Act, and deem that any agreement which an applicant or employee waives their rights under the Act as invalid and unenforceable. The bill provides for injunctive relief, damages, costs and attorney fees for prevailing plaintiffs. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Labor.

Michigan is just the latest state to take on the issue of employers with policies prohibiting firearms on their premises, including parking lots. Several other states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have passed similar “guns at work” laws in recent years. Part of the discussion surrounding the passage of these laws has been the newly created tension between an employee’s Second Amendment rights and an employer’s property rights. Do “guns at work” laws impede on employers’ property rights? Have employers been treating gun-owning employees so adversely or discriminatorily that more “guns at work” laws are needed?

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