Texas Employers Face Open Carry Law

It appears almost certain that the Texas legislature will pass and Governor Abbott will sign a bill allowing the open carrying of handguns in Texas. The law will go into effect by 2016. Visible handguns in belt or shoulder holsters can be carried by anyone currently licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Texas. There are 841,500 Texans, or about 5% of Texans 21 or older, who are current concealed handgun license holders.

Openly carrying a handgun will be prohibited in areas where concealed carrying is now banned: schools, bars, sporting events and businesses that have posted signs banning handguns on the premises.

Employers in Texas need to decide now whether employees will be allowed to openly carry a handgun in the workplace. When concealed carrying was the rule, employers could take a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance on guns in the workplace. Now decisions have to be made because the issue will be so evident.

Texas employers may completely ban all guns on the premises, allow customers to openly carry but choose to prohibit employees from doing so, or also allow licensed employees to openly carry in the workplace. Considerations include deciding how your particular clientele and your workforce will feel about guns.

You may want to start some discussions now among your employees to explore their opinions. In February 2015, only 32% of Texas voters supported open carry in a UT-Texas Tribune poll. Seventy-five percent of Texas police chiefs opposed open carry in Texas, possibly because the new law is expected to prohibit law enforcement from asking if one carrying a holstered weapon is licensed to carry it. The police chiefs said they feared it is going to get very hard to tell the good guys from the bad ones. But if your business is in a dangerous area or your employees work at night, you may decide that allowing open carrying of handguns is a reasonable precaution for your employees.

You must also consider how comfortable you are as a business owner or manager being faced with a certain percentage of gun-toting employees and customers. Many employers are already uncomfortable when they have to fire an employee, no matter how justified the termination is. That termination process is not going to get easier when the employee being fired is openly armed.

Once you have decided how you are going to address this issue with your unique clientele and employees, ask your employment lawyer for a written policy to add to your employment handbook or the signs you need to inform the public coming to your place of business.

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