Florida Law Permits Guns at Work; Delaware Initiates an Anti-Workplace Violence Training Program

The new Florida Gun Law would prevent employers from banning workers from bringing guns to work. To describe the legislation a “controversial” would be a gross understatement.

Workplace Violence

Advocates say the intent of the bill is to ensure that citizens’ constitutional right to keep and bear legally owned firearms within their vehicles. Opponents have raised concerns about the increased incidents of workplace violence (and the liability that goes with it). They also argue that they should have the right to set rules on their property. Some workplaces are exempt from the law, such as nuclear power plants, prisons, schools, and homeland security businesses.

The law puts Florida employers in a seemingly unwinnable situation. On one hand, all employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Yet, they cannot prevent or eliminate a serious safety risk by banning guns in the workplace.

A study by the American Journal of Public Health found that workplaces that allow guns on the premises are roughly five times more likely to have a homicide than those who are not. It is easy to imagine how an angry employee would be more likely to commit an act of violence in the workplace if he simply had to go out to his car to get a gun. So it’s understandable that many Florida employers are staunchly opposed to the bill.

Although the law passed through both houses of the state legislature and was signed by the Governor, it will likely face a difficult challenge in court. Oklahoma passed a similar bill, which was promptly injoined by a federal judge on the ground that it violated federal OSHA laws.

And, while Florida businesses are concerned about the risks that the law may cause, Delaware employers are using the resources offered by the State to prevent workplace violence.

Delaware state government has reached out to Delaware employers to provide guidance in preventing and addressing violence in the workplace. The Delaware Corporate Citizen Initiative, in collaboration with the National Workplace Resource Center on Domestic Violence, published a Model Policy on Domestic Violence in the Workplace. The Model Policy covers all aspects of how domestic violence can impact businesses–from the employee-aggressor whose intimidation tactics spill over into the workplace, to the employee-target who experiences peformance problems as a result of domestic violence.

The Delaware Capital Police have also begun a recent community initiative relating to workplace violence. The Delaware Capitol Police Department is a statewide law enforcement agency responsible for the security of all three banches of state government throughout the state. The Department’s central responsibility is the safety and security of the various state buildings, including the Governor’s Mansion, the Caravel Building, Legislative Hall, the state courts, and more than 80 other buildings in all three counties.

Responding to the current trend in policing, the Delaware Division of Capitol Police has undertaken a community-policing initiative. While the division does not service a traditional community, it does have a similar responsibility to State employees. The Division created a training program on “Violence in the Workplace.” The seminar provides state government employees with an explanation as to what workplace violence is, statistics, reporting, and what to expect of workplace managers and members of law enforcement when these actions are carried out by employees, co-workers, managers, or customers. It also incorporates the Delaware Workplace Violence Policy, giving emloyees a detailed explanation of the purposes of the policy and how it is intended to be applied.

Delaware businesses don’t look far for examples of local workplace violence. I wrote an article on workplace violence for the Delaware Employment Law Letter following last year’s shooting on the campus of Delaware State University. The article, titled Lessons Learned from Local Tragedies, is available at HR Hero.com.

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