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How Wisconsin’s Reversal of Decades-Old Ban on Switchblades and Knives Applies to Employers

By Mark P. Tilkens
  • March 22, 2016

A new Wisconsin law has repealed the state’s prohibition (which has existed for more than 50 years) on manufacturing, selling, transporting, purchasing, or possessing a switchblade and which subjected violators to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail.

Wisconsin Act 149, signed by Governor Scott Walker on February 6, 2016, however, allows local governments to ban knives in municipal buildings, but bars local governments from enacting knife regulations stricter than state law. The Wisconsin Department of Justice stated that knives are still prohibited from schools, claiming that knives are classified as “dangerous weapons” there.

Significantly for property owners, the new law places knives under the state’s Concealed Carry Law (2011 Wisconsin Act 35), enacted in 2011. The CCL allows the carrying of concealed weapons with a state-issued license. In general, the CCL establishes requirements for licensure and regulation of individuals wanting to carry concealed weapons in the state, dictates where concealed weapons will be prohibited, and allows property and business owners to decide whether to permit concealed weapons on their premises.

The CCL applies to employers as follows:

(a) an employer may prohibit an employee from carrying a concealed weapon or a particular type of concealed weapon in the course of the employee’s employment or during any part of the course of the employee’s employment;

(b) an employer may not prohibit an employee, as a condition of employment, from carrying a concealed weapon, a particular type of concealed weapon, or ammunition or from storing a weapon, a particular type of weapon, or ammunition in the employee’s own motor vehicle, regardless of whether the motor vehicle is used in the course of employment or whether the motor vehicle is driven or parked on property used by the employer; and

(c) an employer that does not prohibit one or more employees from carrying a concealed weapon under par. (a) is immune from any liability arising from its decision.

Wisconsin employers should consider their position on the possession of switchblade knives and concealed carry of weapons in light of the new law and update their handbooks and policies accordingly.

Even though many Wisconsin employers had examined related issues with regard to firearms possession, it is a good time to reconsider such policy decisions now that the state of law has changed. In particular, Wisconsin employers should make sure that such policy decisions are made deliberately and not left to chance by omission. All firearms and weapons policies in the workplace should be reviewed to determine if they cover the issue of concealed knives and amended, as appropriate, to meet the employer’s current needs.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this and other workplace developments and help ensure employers’ policies and practices address specific organizational needs effectively and comply with applicable law.

©2016 Jackson Lewis P.C. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Jackson Lewis and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Jackson Lewis.

This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Jackson Lewis P.C. represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation. Our attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information, please contact the attorney(s) listed or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work.

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