As of January 1, 2016, individuals who have a concealed handgun license (CHL) may openly carry a handgun. This change in the law raises questions and concerns for many employers who want to keep guns out of the workplace. The following is a summary of Texas gun laws with which employers should be familiar.
The Texas Open Carry Law allows individuals who have a CHL or are new licensees under the Open Carry Law to carry a handgun, in plain sight, in a shoulder or belt holster in public places.
However, private and public employers may exclude individuals from carrying either a concealed or open carry handgun onto their premises by giving certain notices required under the Texas Penal Code. “Premises” means “a building or a portion of a building” but does not include “any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.”
Specifically, to prohibit non-employees (e.g., customers, vendors, guests and other third parties) from bringing a concealed and/or open carry handgun on an employer’s premises, the notices must use the following language:
Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.
Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.
The notices must (i) include the above language in both English and Spanish; (ii) appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and (iii) be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public at each entrance to the property.
Employers who want to ban employees from carrying both concealed and open carry guns must provide both notices. Notices to employees may be included in an employee handbook.
Individuals who ignore the notice(s) and come on the employer’s premises with a concealed and/or open carry handgun are committing a criminal trespass for which the police may be contacted to address the situation.
The law prohibiting employers from restricting concealed handgun licensees from transporting or storing firearms in a privately owned vehicle in an employee parking lot remains unchanged. Consequently, even if the required notices are posted, an employer who does not fall within an exception to the law (see exceptions below) may not prohibit employees who are licensed to carry a handgun from storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked, privately owned vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area provided for employees.
Exceptions: employees are prohibited from storing handguns or ammunition in the following circumstances:
•parking lots of school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, or private schools;
•property owned or controlled by a person, other than the employer, subject to a valid, unexpired oil, gas, or mineral lease, provided the lease contains a provision prohibiting possession of firearms on the property; and
•chemical manufacturers or oil and gas refiners where the primary business is the manufacture, use, storage, or transportation of hazardous, combustible, or explosive materials. However, an employee who holds a CHL may store a firearm or ammunition in a privately owned vehicle at a chemical plant or oil and gas refinery as long as the car is in a parking lot outside of the restricted area of the plant, and as long as the plant is not open to the public and entry to the plant is monitored by security personnel.
Additionally, employers may prohibit employees from storing handguns or ammunition in vehicles owned or leased by the employer even if the employee uses the employer’s vehicle in the course and scope of employment.
There are other Texas laws that require certain businesses to post notices informing individuals that it is unlawful to carry a handgun on its premises. For example, such notices must be posted by any business that derives 51% or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, and by hospitals and nursing homes.
Employers should determine if they will permit employees, customers, guests, vendors and other third parties to carry handguns (concealed or open carry) on their premises, update existing polices to comply with the law, and post any required notices and/or signs.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive discussion of the law applicable to these issues. For more information on this topic, please email Sandra White or Keith Sieczkowski, Labor & Employment Lawyers with BRANSCOMB LAW. Sandra’s contact information is email@example.com or (210) 598-5400. Keith’s contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 886-3800.