Employers in Ohio may have finally become comfortable with Ohio’s concealed carry firearms law and revised their handbooks to incorporate new policies on how they would address their employee’s rights to carry concealed firearms. However, with Governor DeWine’s signing of S.B. 215, Ohio employers are now caught in another twist with respect to guns in the workplace, or at least on their property.
Zero Tolerance to Weapons May be Legally Questionable
In response to the concealed carry law, many employers adopted a zero tolerance to weapons on employer premises and implemented policies prohibiting all firearms on employer property, including parking lots, employer vehicle and even non-owned employer worksites. Aspects of those policies may now be legally questionable under this new law.
S.B. 215 now allows a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun, not otherwise restricted, without any permit, prior training or other qualifications other than she or he be at least 21 years of age and not legally prohibited from doing so under federal or state law. Ohio law would disqualify anyone from permitless concealed carry of a handgun if he or she:
- Is not a legal resident of the United States
- Has been adjudicated as having a mental deficiency
- Is subject to a civil protection order
- Has been convicted of or pled guilty to certain criminal acts at the time of the carry or during a period of time preceding the carry
- Is under suspension in Ohio or another state related to a concealed handgun license
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military
Notably, S.B. 215 only applies to handguns – long guns remain restricted from concealed carry with or without a concealed carry permit. However, firearms may still be carried in Ohio in “plain sight” – both handguns and long guns.
Permitless Handguns May Be Concealed
Permitless concealed carriers have the same rights and are under the same duties as those with permits. Handguns may now be carried in concealed fashion without a permit in the same places allowed for a concealed carry permitholder. For those now carrying a concealed handgun without a permit, and even those with a permit, they no longer need to identify they are carrying a weapon or that they have a concealed carry permit, unless asked by law enforcement. Nor do concealed carry holders need to carry their permit on their person while carrying a concealed firearm. However, upon a stop by law enforcement, they must still keep their hands in plain sight.
Handgun Laws in School Safety Zones
This new right to permitless concealed carry of a handgun is not unbridled. No one in Ohio can carry a handgun in a “school safety zone,” unless permitted under HB 99, which was also recently signed by Governor DeWine. School safety zone is defined as a school, school building, school premises, school activity and school bus.
S.B. 215 also does not alter the “parking lot” rule, which provides that an employee carrying a handgun in his vehicle must be allowed to park the vehicle in the employer’s parking lot, so long as:
- The employee is absent from the vehicle, the handgun and all ammunition is locked in a compartment of the vehicle such as the trunk or glove box
- The handgun remains in the vehicle at all times the vehicle is on such lot even if the employee is present
- The employee has parked the vehicle in a permitted space
That does not, however, prohibit an employer from precluding employees, customers and other third parties from carrying any firearm, including a handgun, into the workplace or in employer vehicles.
Employers Should Review Policies and Update Accordingly
Employers are advised to review their policies and update them accordingly. Zero tolerance policies and blanket prohibitions against firearms on workplace premises may now be against the law. However, employers are still free to implement policies that:
- Prohibit all firearms and other weapons inside their buildings and vehicles.
- Prohibit all firearms and other weapons, other than handguns, on their premises, including parking lot.
- Discipline employees who are not qualified to possess handguns and are therefore in violation of SB 215 or other rules permitting carrying a handgun.
For example, employees who are qualified individuals may transport or store handguns in their vehicles on employer property only if the above criteria are met. However, an employee who does not adhere to those requirements justifying the parking lot carry can still be disciplined.
If you have any concerns regarding the application of this new permitless carry law to your workplace, please contact Maribeth Meluch (MM@kjk.com; 614.427.5747) or another attorney within KJK’s Labor & Employment Practice Group.