Guns May Be Stored In Employees’ Locked Vehicles After July 1

On April 6, 2015, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1058. This law, which will take effect on July 1, 2015, makes it unlawful for Tennessee employers to discharge employees for the sole reason that they have a gun stored in their locked vehicle in the employer’s parking lot. The Tennessee Senate passed the bill by a 28-5 margin, and the House approved it by a 78-14 margin.

The new law provides that no Tennessee employer may discharge, or take any adverse employment action against, an employee who has a handgun carry permit solely for transporting or storing a firearm or firearm ammunition in the employer’s parking area. The holder of a valid Tennessee handgun carry permit may transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s motor vehicle if the firearm or ammunition being transported or stored in the motor vehicle: (1) is kept from ordinary observation if the permit holder is in the vehicle; or (2) is kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the vehicle or a container securely affixed to the vehicle if the holder is not in the motor vehicle.

An employee who is discharged, or subject to an adverse employment action, in violation of the law can sue the employer to enjoin future violations of the law, and can recover lost wages and benefits, plus reasonable attorney fees and costs. A terminated employee has one (1) year from the date of termination of employment to file a legal action.

The new law does not prohibit an employer from prohibiting firearms anywhere else on its premises. Many Tennessee employers are unhappy with the new law, which they see as interfering with their property rights and their ability to limit potentially dangerous activity on their property. Some employers have decided to maintain their no weapons policies, despite the new law, but will refrain from terminating employees solely for having a gun in their locked vehicle. Other employers are revising their weapons and workplace violence policies to allow handgun permit holders to have guns in their locked vehicles.