Texas Firearm Carry Act of 2021: Can Employers Bar Employees From Carrying Guns Onto Work Premises?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 (House Bill 1927) into law. Texas will join several other states that have enacted or plan to enact similar permitless, “constitutional carry” statutes in support of the individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The act, which will go into effect on September 1, 2021, allows individuals 21 years of age and older to possess and carry a handgun in public without a government-issued permit or license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law. The new law still prohibits Texans from carrying a firearm in bars, amateur or professional sporting events, prisons, civil commitment facilities, state-run hospitals and nursing facilities, and amusement parks. However, it is now legal for Texans to carry a firearm at public governmental meetings.
Similar to existing open and concealed carry laws relating to licensed firearm carriers, the act also provides Texas business owners the right to prevent members of the public from bringing firearms into their places of business. The law makes it a Class C misdemeanor for individuals to carry a firearm into a business if they have oral or written notice that entry with a firearm is prohibited. The act provides specific language that business owners can use and post to effectuate this notice.
On the employment front, the act does not substantively amend Section 52.062(b) of the Texas Labor Code, which allows employers to prohibit an employee from possessing a firearm on their “premises.” An employer’s “premises” is defined as “a building or a portion of a building,” but “does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.” The new law also does not affect an employer’s immunity from civil liability for injuries or deaths “arising out of an occurrence involving a firearm or ammunition that the employer is required to allow on [its] property,” or the presumption that the presence of a firearm “does not by itself constitute a failure by the employer to provide a safe workplace.”
The Firearm Carry Act will come almost 10 years after the state allowed licensed Texas employees to store guns in their locked, private vehicles despite their employers’ ban of possession on their premises. Then-attorney general Abbott was a vocal proponent of employee gun rights, and has only broadened his support for Texans’ rights under the Second Amendment since taking the state’s highest office. Nevertheless, the new law that will be signed by Governor Abbott preserves the right of Texas employers to decide whether to allow firearms on their premises.
The Firearms Carry Act is likely to receive significant media attention that will raise many questions from employees. Like many new laws—especially those involving hot-button issues such as guns in the workplace—employers may want to get out in front of this act with a clear pronouncement of their positions and policies. In this case, the message can be simple: despite the hype, the new law does not change anything with regard to how we do business.