Texas Employers: Understanding the New Open Carry Law

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On January 1, 2016, Texas joined 44 other states in enacting an open carry law for firearms. Politics aside, employers need to understand the implications of the law and what they need to do in their workplaces depending on how they wish to treat their employees who openly carry guns.

The new law affects most private employers, with the exception of schools and certain areas of oil and gas refineries. If you as an employer chose to prohibit your employees from openly carrying guns on your premises, you will need to take additional steps to make your employees (and customers) aware of your policies. Texas law already requires signage for concealed carry firearms, so you will need to make sure you have the following signage in place, at all entrances, as follows:

  • To prohibit concealed handguns on your property, employers must post signs in a conspicuous manner, clearly visible to the public, with language identical to the following: “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.”
  • To prohibit the open carry of guns on their property, employers now must also post second signs conspicuously at each entrance to the property with language identical to the following: “Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an 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 signage must use the exact language quoted above, be contained in separate signs, in English and in Spanish, in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height, and (as also stated above) be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.

This means that the employer must post four signs at each entrance in order to prohibit both open carry and concealed carry. And, because “entrance to the property” is not defined by the language of the law, when in doubt, post. Better to be covered than leave it up to chance.

While employers may ban firearms from within the workplace, they must still allow employees with concealed handgun licenses to store their firearms in their privately owned vehicles parked in the employer’s parking lot (note, company vans are outside of this allowance). Texas law has allowed concealed guns to be contained in privately owned vehicles as such since 2011; however, with the new open carry laws employees may now leave them in plain sign. The likelihood of this occurring will be slim, of course, but as employers may be subject to liability based on this change, they should post signs in their parking lots expressly stating they are not liable for theft or damage.

Notably, the new law is silent regarding employer liability arising from an employee and his or her openly carried weapon, and will likely work its way through the legal system as incidents arise. (The concealed carry law from 2011 expressly granted employers immunity from civil actions.)
Texas employers (and property owners) in the Lone Star State should review their current policies and ensure compliance with the new open carry (and concealed, for that matter) laws. Although employers retain the right to ban firearms from their premises, they must be fully and consistently communicated with the requirements of Texas law.

Hilary Atkins

Posted In: Legal

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