Legal Issues

Court: Employment at Will Trumps 2nd Amendment Gun Rights

No guns firearms sign

By Eric B. Meyer

In every one of the United States, except Montana, employment is at will. This means that, absent a contract of employment for a specific period of time, you may fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.

(Not to be confused with “right to work” — more on that here.)

Well, I suppose that there are some exceptions. Like, you can’t discriminate. And many laws make it illegal to retaliate as well.

Public policy exemptions to at-will employment

And then there are the public-policy exceptions, They vary from state to state. In Michigan, for example, a termination violates public policy when:

  • The employee is discharged in violation of an explicit legislative statement prohibiting discharge of employees who act in accordance with a statutory right or duty;
  • The employee is discharged for the failure or refusal to violate the law in the course of employment; or,
  • The employee is discharged for exercising a right conferred by a well-established legislative enactment.

Why do I use Michigan as an example? Well, the Cincinnati-based Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided this case (Hoven v. Walgreen Co.) , where a drug store employee decided that he’d had enough with past robberies at his store and decided to carry a concealed weapon in the event of a future robbery. So, when a masked gunman returned, the employee pulled his gun and started blasting.

The drug store later informed the employee that he had violated its “non-escalation” policy and, ultimately, it fired the employee.

The employee sued alleging, among other things, that the store had violated public policy by terminating his employment in violation of the Second Amendment.

 At will > Second Amendment

The Sixth Circuit, however, disagreed.

It held that while the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for the right to bear arms, without interference from the state. In a private setting, such as your workplace, employees don’t have the same Second Amendment rights.

[Update: You can also fire Febreze-toting workplace cowboys, too.

Unless you know that the law varies in your state, even where the employee is well-intentioned, such as the one in the case above, please don’t condone employees carrying concealed weapons at work.

It’s bad enough that, every so often, we hear stories about workplace gun violence. Don’t add to that violence with more guns in the workplace.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .
  • TyrannyOfEvilMen

    You’re confusing constitutional rights and private property rights. Your employer may fire you for any number of things. You might, for example, just piss your boss off by the way you look at him one morning. And he could fire you for it. You have no right to employment. On the other hand, you do have a right – if you choose to exercise it – to defend your life when you are confronted with a lethal threat.

    While some professions are clearly more dangerous than others, we do not pick or choose when we might be confronted with someone who wants to do us harm. And some people may choose to be armed based on their individual preference. If you believe that making your workplace a “gun free zone” is going to protect people from workplace violence, you’re a fool. Gun free zones do not prevent violence. In fact, it should be clear to everyone by now that in some cases, they likely encourage it.

  • oath keeper

    If you would research the facts you would find that the “workplace violence” involving guns was and always is at a “gun free zone”. first: If you want to stop gun violence, you need to employ detant just like any other place that people seek to use violence to spread fear: if employees, patrons, or would be criminals know that employees carry, they wouldn’t attack that place. secondly, How can you condone anyone, including companies to oppress any of the constitutional rights?? what makes yours or any other company policy above the constitution? It is after all the supreme law of the land. what arrogance to place your policy above the supreme law of the land! thirdly: just because I work for you (to provide you a service and me a paychek) doesn’t give you the right to lord it over me and take away my rights.