Recently enacted provisions of Indiana’s workplace gun laws that bar employers from banning weapons in personal vehicles and from even asking workers about gun possession will get their first test in a lawsuit filed by an Indianapolis man accusing his employer of illegally firing him.
The lawsuit, Thomas Jordan v. ADM Enforcement, Inc., was filed Sept. 19, 2012, in Morgan County Superior Court and is the first lawsuit filed in Indiana challenging the state’s 2010 and 2011 workplace gun laws—dubbed the “take your gun to work” provision that took effect in 2010 and the follow-up nondisclosure measure, which kicked in July 2011.
On July 6, 2012, Thomas Jordan, a security guard for Camby, Ind.-based ADM Enforcement, showed co-workers an AR-15 rifle he had in his car while off-duty and off ADM property. Jordan’s weapon accidentally discharged. There were no injuries, but ADM issued him a warning the next day. The warning was not for the accidental discharge, but for having a firearm unauthorized by the company in his vehicle.
The next day, according to the lawsuit, company owner Anthony McClure sent an e-mail to all staff saying: “No employee other than police officers employed by ADM shall have, possess on their person or in their vehicles any rifle/shotgun while on duty. If you have any questions feel free to email me directly. If you feel that this [is] an unreasonable rule then ADM will gladly accept your resignation. If I find that this rule is not being followed by employees or supervisors have knowledge of this violation then consider your job to be in jeopardy. This is a zero tolerance rule. All ADM employees shall respond acknowledging this email. Thank you.”
After Jordan complained about the policy and refused to answer questions about whether he still had the gun in his car, ADM fired him on Sept. 1, 2012.
Jordan sued ADM under Indiana’s recently enacted workplace gun laws, which prohibit employers from banning firearms locked out of sight in employees’ cars and from requiring them to disclose whether they own or use guns, “unless the disclosure concerns the possession, use, or transportation of a firearm or ammunition that is used in fulfilling the duties of the employment of the individual.”
In addition to his lost wages, Jordan is seeking to recover attorneys’ fees, court costs and—since his employer allegedly knew it was violating the law—punitive damages.
Controversial ‘Take Your Gun to Work’ Law Signed in 2010
On March 18, 2010, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed P.L. 90-2010 into law, allowing workers to keep lawfully possessed firearms and ammunition in their locked vehicles in trunks, glove compartments or out of plain sight while parked on company property. The law was a response to Indiana employers (and employers around the nation) that prohibited employees from having firearms anywhere on company property through corporate gun policies and workplace violence rules. The “take your gun to work” law made it illegal for Indiana employers to adopt any policy that prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, employees from having firearms in their locked vehicles while the vehicle is on company property.
In 2011, a nondisclosure amendment was added prohibiting an employer doing business in Indiana from requiring an applicant for employment or an employee to disclose information about whether the applicant or employee owns, possesses, uses or transports a firearm or ammunition.
Accidental Discharge Complicates Case
“The facts of the case, of course, may be contested. However, if the owner did, in fact, send an e-mail prohibiting employees from having a firearm in their vehicles, that position would appear to violate Indiana’s new workplace gun laws,” Brian McDermott, an attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC in Indianapolis, told SHRM Online.
The fact that Jordan’s gun discharged complicates the case, even though it wasn’t cited in his firing.
“There may be a question as to whether Jordan’s accidental discharge was the underlying reason behind his termination,” McDermott said. “If, for instance, the employer terminated the employee for his accidental discharge of a weapon in front of other co-workers, that reason would be a presumptively lawful basis to terminate an employee under Indiana law.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Indiana Workplace Gun Law Amended to Further Restrict Employers’ Policies, SHRM Online Legal Issues, May 2011
Indiana Governor Signs Workplace Gun Bill into Law, SHRM Online Legal Issues, March 2010
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