Many employers assume that they have the right to prohibit their employees from having guns anywhere on their premises including parking lots. This workplace policy has been almost universal in most employee handbook for the last several decades. However, in several states this assumption is now wrong and in these states an employer cannot bar its employees from bringing guns to work and leaving them in their cars. Indeed, in some of these states, enforcing such a ban could subject the employer to criminal liability; an employee discharged for having a gun in the company parking lot might have a civil cause of action against the employer.
There are now 16 U.S. states that have enacted “bring your gun to work” laws to allow employees to carry weapons in their private vehicles so long as the weapons are locked, even when those vehicles are on company property. In addition, several other states including North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are considering similar laws. The spread of “parking lot” or “bring your gun to work” laws stem in part from an important 2008 Supreme Court ruling (District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783) that struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban.
The trend toward enacting these laws is alarming some companies and business groups as policies designed to ensure safe workplaces clash with a citizen’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. These new regulations are of particular interest to employers, not only because of the potential for increased gun-related violence at work, but also based upon potential civil liability exposure, based upon an employee or customer’s involvement in, or being a potential victim of workplace violence involving a weapon. In addition, employers have also raised concerns about whether the law violates their duties under the very broad general duty clause of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) to maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards. A federal district judge recently ruled, however, that a similar law in Florida did not violate OSHA.
In general, “bring your gun to work” laws can be divided into two categories. The first includes six U.S. states with laws that constitute a severe restriction of the employer’s regulation of firearms in parking lots. The second category includes 10 states whose laws have exceptions that weaken the laws’ actual impact on employers.
The states with severe restrictions, which include Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and Oklahoma generally prohibit employers from inquiring as to whether employees have a firearm inside their vehicle, prohibit any person legally entitled to possess a firearm lawfully locked in a vehicle on an employer’s property from limiting that right and may limit employers from creating a policy that would limit the ability of an employee to store a gun or firearm in their locked vehicle.
The remaining 10 states that have passed “bring your gun to work” laws are in the second category that provide exceptions to their “bring your gun to work” laws, thus allowing employers to restrict employees from bringing firearms to work. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, and Utah. 06-26-2011.
Higher gas prices have prompted the Internal Revenue Service to announce a midyear hike in the standard mileage rate employers can use to reimburse employees who drive their owned or leased automobiles for business purposes. The rate will increase to 55.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2011. This is an increase of 4.5 cents from the 51 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2011, as set forth in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.
In recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2011. The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year in the fall for the next calendar year.
The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. This rate is also used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage. 06-23-2011; IRS.gov.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows an employer, using information reported on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States. For most employers, the use of E-Verify is voluntary and limited to determining the employment eligibility of new hires only. There is no charge to employers to use E-Verify. The E-Verify system is operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that states may require businesses to use the federal E-Verify program. The court’s ruling also permits states to penalize businesses that hire undocumented workers. States may impose conditions on a business’s ability to obtain and keep a business license, including suspending or revoking a business license. Arizona enacted a law that gave the state the power to decide whether to suspend or revoke the licenses of Arizona employers that knowingly or intentionally employ workers not authorized to work in the United States. The law also created circumstances under which the state must suspend or revoke such employers’ business licenses. The Arizona law further required Arizona employers to use E-Verify. A lawsuit challenged the state law on the grounds that federal immigration laws pre-empted Arizona’s law and that the federal E-Verify program is voluntary and Arizona had no right to mandate its use. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with these challenges in a 5-3 decision (with one justice not participating), and concluded that the law was legal. Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, No. 09-115 (2011) As of the end of December 2010, more than 238,000 employers are enrolled in the program, with over 16 million queries run through the system in fiscal year 2010. There have been over 3 million cases run through the system in fiscal year 2011. Although E-Verify is still voluntary for most employers, it has been mandatory since 2009 for certain employers, such as those employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause and employers in certain states.
After a break of three years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) resumed sending no-match letter to employers starting from April 6, 2011. If an employer receives a no-match letter from the SSA, they should first check their internal records to verify that the problem isn’t because of a transposing number or other clerical error. If this isn’t the case, the employer should follow up with the employee to check to make sure the information that the employee provided was accurate. The employer should ask the employee to confirm that their name and social security number were properly provided to and submitted to the employer at the time of hire and employment. If the name and number were correctly provided to the employer, the employer should advise the employee to contact the local SSA office to have the discrepancy fixed. The SSA has suggested that an employer provide an employee a “reasonable period of time” to fix the discrepancy but does not provide a definitive time period. A “safe-harbor” rule provides a 90-day time period to resolve the discrepancy. For more information, go to http://1.usa.gov/irSnnz.
Connecticut has became the first U.S. state to mandate paid sick leave for service workers. The law applies to businesses with 50 or more employees, exempts manufacturing companies and nationally chartered non-profit groups and covers only service workers who receive an hourly wage such as waiters, cashiers, fast-food cooks, hair stylists, security guards and nursing home aids. The law allows each employee to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked with the number capped at five per year. Presently, similar regulations are pending or about to be introduced in Philadelphia and Seattle. Only San Francisco and Washington, D.C. now require employers to provide sick days to workers. June 5, 2011