Employee rights to store guns in cars parked in private employer parking lots

The Second Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, constrains the government, not private actors. Still, some states provide that private employers may not prohibit employees from bringing guns onto employer-owned parking lots; I blogged in 2012 about a Kentucky Supreme Court decision interpreting such a Kentucky statute.

Mullins v. Marathon Petroleum Company, LP (E.D. Ky. Feb. 5, 2014) applies this statute, but concludes that the statute isn’t violated when the employer simply requires employees to give advance notice of their in-parking-lot possession. An excerpt:

Plaintiff Jason Mullins alleges that on May 11, 2012, while he was employed by Defendant Marathon Petroleum Company as a barge cleaner, Ken Rakes, an employee of Securitas Security Services saw a rifle in backseat of Plaintiff’s vehicle, which was parked [on] Marathon’s lot. Plaintiffs allege that after the hunting rifle was observed in his vehicle, Mr. Mullins was called into a meeting with three members of Marathon’s safety department. Plaintiffs assert that after several meetings, Marathon informed Mr. Mullins that he was being suspended one day without pay and placed on probation for 24 months for violating the company’s weapons policy.

Plaintiffs allege that as a result of this discipline, Mr. Mullins could be “fired for any violation of any company rule or policy, no matter how minor.” Plaintiffs also claim that as a result of the discipline imposed by Marathon, Mr. Mullins was unable “to apply and test for several higher-paying positions” with Marathon….

KRS § 237.106 … provides, in pertinent part:

(1) No person, including but not limited to an employer, who is the owner, lessee, or occupant of real property shall prohibit any person who is legally entitled to possess a firearm from possessing a firearm, part of a firearm, ammunition, or ammunition component in a vehicle on the property….

(4) An employer that fires, disciplines, demotes, or otherwise punishes an employee who is lawfully exercising a right guaranteed by this section and who is engaging in conduct in compliance with this statute shall be liable in civil damages. An employee may seek and the court shall grant an injunction against an employer who is violating the provisions of this section when it is found that the employee is in compliance with the provisions of this section.

Pursuant to the unambiguous wording of the statute, a cause of action will only lie under KRS 237.106 if an employer “prohibits” employees from keeping weapons in their vehicle[.]

Marathon’s Weapons Policy does not prohibit Kentucky employees from storing weapons in their vehicles. The Kentucky Addendum to the policy states “for Kentucky sites only, employees or contractors who lawfully possess a weapon may store such a weapon in his or her own privately-owned vehicle,” provided certain administrative requirements are met, including the requirement that the employee complete and have on file a current Weapons Approval Form disclosing the weapon…. As such, contrary to Plaintiffs’ allegation, this policy cannot be read to contravene KRS 237.106….

“[P]rohibit” is not synonymous with “regulate.” 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. KRS 237.106 does not regulate “approval” or “disclosure” requirements at all. It only addresses prohibition. Marathon’s policy does not fall within the purview of the statute. Thus, Mr. Mullins has not alleged facts that could demonstrate a violation of the statute ….

Seems quite right to me, given the text of the statute, and the general principle that private employers are free to restrict employee conduct on employer property, unless a statute specifically forbids this.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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