Under Oklahoma’s new ‘Open Carry’ law, employers can keep workplace gun-free

| May 16, 2012 | News & Comment

Yesterday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a measure (Senate Bill 1733) which will allow licensed Oklahomans to carry unconcealed handguns — “open carry” — in a wide variety of circumstances. The law goes into effect November 1, 2012.

While working its way through the Legislature, Oklahoma’s “Open Carry” bill received a lot of media coverage. Despite all the attention, there are many misconceptions about what the law allows. Some employees may believe they will now have the right to carry guns while at work. This is incorrect, and employers should be prepared to respond immediately.

The Oklahoma Self-Defense Act (PDF) provides for the issuance of handgun licenses to qualifying Oklahomans and spells out the parameters and restrictions governed by the Act. Under the new law amending that Act, those who have a valid handgun license will now have the right to carry a handgun, concealed or unconcealed (“open carry”), in many public locations beginning November 1.

However, there remain some important exceptions to this right. Licensed individuals are prohibited from carrying handguns inside government buildings, on school property and in most of areas of college campuses, at sports venues and a few other specified facilities.

Another important provision that did not change under the new law is that Oklahoma businesses still have the right to prohibit any and all weapons in their buildings. This includes the right for employers to implement and enforce policies that prohibit employees who are licensed to carry from bringing a handgun, concealed or unconcealed, into the workplace. Keep in mind employees still have the right to store guns inside a locked vehicle on the employer’s parking lot.

Employers should anticipate that some employees may think they soon will be able to bring guns to work, so long as they are licensed. Now is the time to set the record straight. If you do not already have one in place, consider adopting and publishing a policy banning any and all weapons from your workplace. If you have a no-weapons rule in effect, now is an excellent time to remind your employees about the policy and to explain that the new law will not affect or change your no-weapons rule.

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Charlie Plumb

About the author

Charlie Plumb is a labor and employment attorney with the McAfee & Taft law firm. He represents management in all phases of employment law and labor relations. Much of his practice is dedicated to counseling employers on compliance with a broad range of state and federal employment laws and regulations and educating management on best practices for avoiding disputes arising from the employer/employee relationship. He also has extensive litigation experience before federal and state courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and in arbitration matters involving claims of discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliatory discharge, breach of contract, and constitutional law violations.

As part of his labor practice, Charlie represents unionized employers in collective bargaining negotiations with labor unions, arbitrates grievances, and defends management against a variety of claims before the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Justice and in state and federal courts. He also represents employers who seek to maintain a non-unionized workforce by counseling management on union avoidance strategies and by providing training and advice to management and supervisors. His clients include numerous municipalities throughout Oklahoma and companies engaged in the manufacturing and distribution, construction, energy, public utility, technology and business services industries.

Charlie is a member of the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section and the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Labor Council. He is also the designated representative of McAfee & Taft as the exclusive member firm representing Oklahoma in the Employers Counsel Network, a nationwide affiliation of leading law firms providing legal assistance and representation to employers.

Charlie is a frequent speaker and author on workplace issues. He is also co-editor of the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter, a monthly review of new court decisions, regulations and laws that affect state employers.

Charlie’s achievements have earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (labor and employment law), Oklahoma Super Lawyers (employment and labor, civil litigation defense), Benchmark Litigation and Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, where he has been lauded as “an impressive public speaker who utilizes his vast experience to effectively defend clients.” Researchers at Chambers & Partners also quoted market observers as admiring him for his “practicality of advice and specialized knowledge of complex legal issues,” with sources commenting that he “immediately commands respect, is always up to date and knows how to handle a problem.”