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Employees May Store Firearms, Ammunition in Locked Vehicles under New Indiana Law

  • March 25, 2010

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has signed into law the “Possession of Firearms and Ammunition in Locked Vehicles Law.” The law bars employers from adopting any rule or policy prohibiting employees, including contract employees, from storing firearms and ammunition out-of-sight in their locked vehicles.  Effective July 1, 2010, the law applies only to persons who may possess a firearm or ammunition legally.  It does not apply to the possession of a firearm, ammunition, or other device for which an individual must possess a valid federal firearms license issued under federal law (18 U.S.C. § 923).

Coverage and Exceptions

In general, the gun law precludes employers in Indiana from adopting or enforcing any policy or rule that “prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, any employee, including a contract employee, from possessing a firearm or ammunition that is locked in the trunk of the employee’s vehicle, kept in the glove compartment of the employee’s locked vehicle, or stored out of plain sight in the employee’s locked vehicle.”
 
The law includes several broad exceptions.  Specifically, it permits employers to ban the possession of a firearm or ammunition on school property, property that is being used by a school for a school function, or on a school bus.  Employers also may prohibit employees from bringing firearms or ammunition on the property of:

  • a child caring institution;
  • an emergency shelter care child caring institution;
  • a private secure facility;
  • a group home;
  • an emergency shelter care group home;
  • a child care center;
  • a penal facility;
  • an approved post-secondary educational institution;
  • a domestic violence shelter;
  • a person’s residence; or
  • a location in violation of federal law.

Property that either is subject to the United States Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (issued April 9, 2007), and licensed by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (under Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations), or is owned by a public utility that generates and transmits electric power or a department of public utilities also is exempt from the gun law.
 
Finally, the law permits employers to ban the possession of a firearm or ammunition in an employee’s “personal vehicle” if the employee is a “direct support professional” who “works directly with individuals with developmental disabilities” and uses his personal vehicle to transport such individuals.

Remedies

The gun law provides expansive relief to individuals who believe that they have “been harmed by a violation” of the law.  Such persons may bring an action against “the person” alleged to have committed the violation.  Significantly, this allows persons other than employees, such as bystanders, spouses, or children, to bring an action against an employer who had a policy in contravention of this law.
 
Courts may award actual damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees to the “prevailing individual” if the court finds that a violation occurred.  In addition, a court may enjoin violations of the statute.
 
The law also provides that a court lacks jurisdiction over any action brought against an employer “who is in compliance” with the statute for any injury or damage resulting from the employer’s compliance.

Employer Considerations

As expansive as this law is, it contains some glaring omissions.  Significantly, the gun law does not define “employee’s vehicle” or “employee’s personal vehicle”.  This may raise the question whether employers are allowed to ban the possession of firearms or ammunition in company-owned vehicles.  By using two different terms, an ambiguity exists regarding whether a company-owned vehicle is an “employee’s vehicle” and thus subject to the law.  In addition, the law also does not address employer’s searches of vehicles.  These issues likely will be decided by Indiana courts.

In the meantime, employers should consult with counsel to determine whether their business falls within any of the exceptions.  Employers should review their policies concerning the possession of firearms or ammunition on company property, including company-owned vehicles.  Employers should consider adopting or redistributing a clear policy on workplace violence, including a procedure to report threatening conduct.
 
Employers also should review their policies concerning workplace searches, including searches of employees’ vehicles or company-owned vehicles.  Managers, supervisors, and security personnel should be trained regarding the gun law.  Employers should consider whether additional security measures are needed to address the potential for workplace violence.

©2010 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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