Lawsuit Puts Indiana’s Take Your Gun to Work Law Under Scrutiny
First came take your kid to work day; then it was take your dog to work day. Now it’s time for take your gun to work day – at least in Indiana, where a controversial state law that allows employees to keep guns in their cars and prohibits employers from asking about them is now being tested by a lawsuit.
Thomas Jordan, a security guard for Camby, Ind.-based ADM Enforcement, in July showed co-workers the AR-15 rifle he had in his car while off-duty. Jordan’s weapon accidentally discharged; there were no injuries, but ADM issued him a warning the next day – not for the accidental discharge, says his lawyer Guy Relford of Carmel, Ind. – but for having a firearm unauthorized by the company.
ADM’s president issued a policy via email the next day prohibiting employees from possessing rifles or shotguns on their persons or in their cars while on duty.
After Jordan complained about the policy and refused to answer what Relford says amounted to illegal questions under state law about whether he still had the gun in his car, ADM fired him on September 1, still insisting that the gun was not an “ADM authorized weapon.”
First Lawsuit of Its Kind
Jordan sued ADM on Sept. 19 under Indiana’s “Guns in the Workplace” statutes, 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.”
While it seems like ADM’s policy might fall under the exception, it does not, Relford says, because while the gun wasn’t used in his job, it was in his car, and thus safe from the prying questions of his employer under the law. Jordan’s case is the first one filed under the Indiana law, according to Relford.
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 (Jordan had mentioned it several times before and after being fired), punitive damages.
Controversy over Workplace Violence
The controversial law was passed in 2010 and then amended in 2011. “The law is a response to Indiana employers (and employers around the nation) who prohibit employees from having firearms anywhere on company property through corporate gun policies and workplace violence rules,” according to a blog post by lawyers with Ogletree Deakins in Indianapolis.
“The idea behind the law is that someone who can lawfully possess a firearm should not have to disarm themselves simply because they are on their way to work,” adds Relford. “‘Guns in the workplace’ statutes are a reasonable compromise to say that an employer can still tell an employee that he or she may not carry a gun while on company business, or in the employer’s building, but as long as a gun is locked up securely out of sight in the employee’s vehicle, that employee’s job (and Constitutionally-protected right to bear arms) should be protected.”
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Opponents of the law say it fuels the very thing supporters say it is designed to prevent: violence. “In a case of unsettling foreshadowing, the very next day after the Indiana General Assembly’s passage of the bill, a Portage, Ind. man who reportedly was angry about a poor performance review by his employer (the Indiana Department of Workforce Development) went to his car, pulled a shotgun from the backseat, and began shooting at his co-workers,” according to an article posted by Ogletree Deakins on SHRM’s website.
“If a crazy person came to my place of employment and started shooting, my co-workers would be quite glad that I – as a sane, responsible and lawful gun owner – had access to a firearm in my vehicle to perhaps limit the carnage, realizing that the statutes at issue wouldn’t protect my job as soon as I removed a firearm from my vehicle,” Relford insists, “but my life and the lives of my co-workers would seem to be a bit more important in that situation.”
Do you think Indiana’s law will contribute to or cut down on violence in the workplace? Leave your opinion below.