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With the passage of Illinois’ Firearm Concealed Carry Act, employers will shortly confront a new, potentially troublesome workplace issue: concealed firearms. The new law makes Illinois the 50th state to enact legislation allowing concealed carry and permits Illinois residents and non-residents who meet specified qualifications to apply for a license to carry a concealed firearm—defined as a concealed loaded or unloaded handgun carried on or about a person or within a vehicle.

Required postings for gun-free workplaces

The new law provides property owning employers with the discretion to permit or prohibit the concealed carry of firearms on their premises. Employers desiring to maintain a gun-free workplace are required to post a sign “clearly and conspicuously” at the entrance of their building or property stating that the carrying of firearms is prohibited. The sign is required to be standardized according to state police guidelines, which have yet to be issued, though the law specifies the sign shall be four by six inches. Without a sign conforming to the new law’s requirements, even if an employer has a workplace policy banning firearms, an employer cannot legally prevent an employee or visitor from entering the workplace carrying a concealed weapon.

Healthcare providers

There are certain types of healthcare providers, including but not limited to, laboratories, medical clinics and private and public hospitals, that do not have discretion to permit the concealed carry of firearms on their premises. At these establishments it is illegal for any licensed individual to carry a concealed weapon. While these employers are not required to post the mandatory signage, they should nevertheless have workplace policies in place preventing employees and visitors from bringing firearms into the workplace.

Leased workplaces

One gray area is whether employers who operate on leased premises have the same discretion to prohibit the concealed carry of firearms on their premises. It is anticipated that once the state police department issues regulations regarding the signage requirements, which is scheduled to occur by January 2014, the uncertainty will be resolved. At a minimum, these employers should ensure their landlord’s concealed carry policy is consistent with their own.

Special provisions for parking areas

Even if an employer prohibits concealed carry and complies with the sign-posting requirements, employees may still lawfully store their firearms in their vehicles while parked on the premises. The new law simply mandates that the employee keep his/her firearm out of plain view and his/her vehicle locked. Employers must be sure any policies or procedures governing handguns in the workplace do not infringe on the rights of employees to keep authorized handguns locked in their cars, even in employer-owned parking lots.

The new law is also ambiguous concerning whether employers can prevent employees from carrying concealed firearms in a company vehicle or during the scope of employment that falls outside of the employer’s private owned real property. Hopefully, the state police department’s regulations will provide some clarity on these issues.

What should employers be doing now?

While it is likely to be several months before the first concealed carry license is issued, employers need to quickly decide whether they want a gun-free workplace. Additionally, there are at least 14 counties where the prosecutors have announced that they will not prosecute individuals with valid state firearm owner’s cards. In those counties, Clinton, Edwards, Logan, Macon, Madison, Marshall, Peoria, Piatt, Randolph, Shelby, Stark, Tazewell, White, and Woodford, employers should be aware that employees may start concealed carrying immediately and should, if desired, post the required signage.

Employers that plan to have a gun-free workplace should also immediately implement and distribute policies that specifically prohibit employees and visitors from bringing concealed firearms into their private workplace.

For more information, please contact:

Jenny McGovern

James J. Boutrous, II

We have an impressive team of labor and employment attorneys who specialize in representing management in all aspects of labor and employment law at both the state and federal level. They have significant expertise in counseling clients on labor, employment and human resources issues and representing employers in state and federal courts and administrative agencies in all aspects of labor and employment-related litigation.