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Can Kentucky employers ask for notice of guns in the parking lot?

Under Kentucky statute KRS § 237.106, employers can't prohibit people who are legally entitled to possess firearms from storing them in vehicles parked on the employer's property. If an employer takes any negative job action against an employee for legally having a firearm in their vehicle, the employer can be held liable for civil damages.

Does that mean that employers can't regulate firearms in workers' cars at all? No, said a federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Generally, private-sector employers are free to regulate or restrict their employees' conduct on company property. The exception is when a state or federal statute specifically forbids it. The Kentucky statute in question restricts employers' rights in this regard. The question before the court was whether the employer was liable for civil damages when it punished a worker for violating company policy regarding weapons on company property.

The employer's policy did not actually prohibit workers from storing legal weapons in their vehicles. In fact, it specifically stated that, in Kentucky, "employees or contractors who lawfully possess a weapon may store such a weapon in his or her own privately-owned vehicle" as long as they complied with certain administrative requirements.

The employer required workers to keep a current Weapons Approval Form on file with the company, merely to disclose the existence of the weapon. The plaintiff in the case was an employee who had a hunting rifle in his vehicle. When the gun was noticed, the man was required to meet with the company's safety department. After several meetings, the plaintiff was ultimately suspended without pay for a single day and put on 24 months of probation.

This discipline would have allowed the company to fire the plaintiff for any rule or policy violation, the plaintiff said. He also claimed it kept him from applying and testing for higher-paid positions within the company. He sued, claiming that the employer's disclosure policy violated KRS § 237.106.

It did not, the court said. "'[P]rohibit' is not synonymous with 'regulate,'" the decision reads. "If the Kentucky legislature had intended to limit an employer's right to require the disclosure of weapons, they would have done so. They did not."

It is not a violation of KRS § 237.106 merely to place a reasonable notice requirement on workers who want to store firearms in their vehicles. As long as the employer's actions don't serve to actually limit workers' rights, there should be no problem.

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