The Weapons-Free Workplace

Understanding expectations at local, state and federal levels

By Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP August 18, 2022
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no weapons policies

​The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that "a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Laws and regulations related to this right—particularly the concealed carry of weapons and where weapons can be carried—continue to change. 

The recent Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen will cause additional confusion over when, where and how weapons can be carried. More recent legislation issued in New York state after the ruling will more than likely be challenged in state courts or the Supreme Court.

What does all this mean for the workplace? Employers should be aware of the evolving legislation and communicate expectations consistently throughout the organization.

  • Laws and regulations. Laws vary at local and state levels. They can contradict federal laws and the Second Amendment. It is crucial to understand every law that can impact the organization in all locations. There have been, and will continue to be, changes at local and state levels.

  • Policies and procedures. Be consistent in issuing and maintaining policies and procedures. If you have strict no-weapons policies in place, ensure they are enforced fairly throughout the organization. This means that if no one is allowed to have a weapon in the office, that includes executives—even the CEO. There can be complications with such a policy if your organization is in a rural area, where employees may hunt before or after work. Recognize these challenges, and communicate your expectations.

  • Plan and train. Every organization should train for the possibility of workplace violence, including incidents involving weapons. Be prepared, and communicate appropriate plans throughout the organization. Planning also means assessing risks and auditing the workplace. Know where the weaknesses are or might be, and address them. Prepare for any situation in any workplace, which means being ready to act and make split-second decisions to save lives.

  • Review and evolve. Process improvement means continuous review and evolution. Monitor any additional changes to relevant laws and regulations. Modify and update your policies accordingly, and communicate and train on those changes. Keep assessing risks, and update the plan as needed. Take the process seriously: Build a plan that addresses as much risk as possible. These are not enjoyable discussions or trainings, but they are necessary. 

Weapons in the workplace can be a very polarizing issue. However, consistency and open communication will assist in alleviating disagreements. Develop a program that works for your organization, and build a resource network to provide opportunities for understanding and partnerships for implementation. Look to the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge for the relevant HR competencies and functions to ensure that foundational support is in place to build strategically aligned processes for your organization. 

Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting LLC and co-owner of Labor Love LLC, is an HR consultant, adjunct professor, and on-call mediator and fact finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. He holds master's degrees in business administration and in HR and industrial relations, and he also is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

Other SHRM resources:
Key Questions for New York and New Jersey Businesses Following Court's Gun Decision, SHRM Online, July 2022
Can an Employer Prohibit Employees from Having Guns in Their Cars While at Work?, SHRM HR Q&A
Understanding Workplace Violence Prevention and Response, SHRM members-only toolkit





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