Ohio’s New Law Altering the Concealed Carry Obligations of Employers Goes Into Effect March 21

The effective date of Ohio’s new concealed carry law (SB 199) that will alter the ability of employers to ban firearms on their property and premises is quickly approaching. Signed by Governor John Kasich on December 19, 2016, SB 199 precludes private employers from adopting policies that prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, employees and others with valid concealed handgun licenses (CHL) from transporting and storing their handguns in personal vehicles in the employers’ parking area. The new law also expands the right of public and private Ohio colleges and universities to decide whether to permit concealed carry on their campuses.

Senate Bill 199’s Changes to Employers’ Concealed Carry Rights

With the passage of SB 199, private employers that previously could regulate all aspects of concealed carry in the workplace will have that right curtailed. SB 199 requires such employers to allow employees with a valid CHL to transport and store firearms in personal vehicles on the employer’s property (“parking lot carry law”). On the other hand, public and private colleges and universities that previously had no discretion on this subject may now decide whether to allow concealed firearms to be carried on their campuses (“campus carry law”).  Colleges and universities are also required to allow valid CHL holders to transport and store firearms in vehicles on campus.

More specifically, the new parking lot carry law makes it illegal for private employers to establish, maintain or enforce a policy or rule that prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, a valid CHL holder from transporting or storing firearms in a personal vehicle on the employer’s premises when the following two requirements are met:

(1) the CHL holder remains inside the vehicle with the firearm and ammunition, or the CHL holder locks the firearm and ammunition in the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or container within or on the personal vehicle when he or she leaves the vehicle, and

(2) the vehicle is in a location where it is otherwise permitted to be.

As for the campus carry law, the board of trustees or the governing body of the institution may now vote on and adopt policies or rules that authorize specific individuals or classes of individuals to carry a concealed handgun on campus. This means that the institutions could vote to allow concealed carry for the entire campus or for certain segments of the campus only, such as faculty and/or staff.

Application of the Parking Lot Carry and Campus Carry Laws

As this new law is implemented, employers are faced with questions concerning what policies may have the effect of prohibiting CHL holders from storing firearms in personal vehicles.  The parking lot carry law does not specify how employers may lawfully address situations where an individual transports and stores firearms and ammunition on the employer’s premises in a manner inconsistent with the new law’s requirements. In addition, it remains unclear what remedies an employee may have for violations of the parking lot carry law. Whether or not SB 199 is a welcome change for employers, its provisions will go into effect on March 21. Before that effective date, employers should reassess their weapons policies and practices in light of the new Ohio law. Employers who have locations outside Ohio should also should consider the concealed carry laws of other states. For instance, on February 22, New Hampshire became the 12th state to enact “constitutional carry” legislation that legalizes carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Other states are considering similar bills to abolish concealed carry permit requirements. This new legislation could have implications for the implementation and enforcement of concealed carry policies and practices in those particular states. To the extent concealed carry policies and practices are revised or rescinded in light of Ohio’s and other states’ laws, employers should provide their employees with notice as soon as practicable. Employers also should closely monitor the applicable laws and be prepared to take proactive steps to adjust policies and practices as new guidance on application of the laws becomes available.

For more information on SB 199, click here.

M. Scott McIntyre is a partner at BakerHostetler.  He is certified as a specialist in employment and labor law and is a leader of the firm’s employment and labor practice. Lindsay P. Sadlowski, staff attorney at BakerHostetler.