No Guns at Work!
A Virginia employee asks:
My employee handbook specifies that I can't have any weapons on company property "while on the clock." I went to my place of work open carrying to help place a food order. I never clocked in and I was there for about 15 or 20 minutes. Four days later I was terminated.
It is my civil right to open carry a weapon in the state of Virginia. I did not violate any laws and I'm aware of my rights. Do I have a case against my previous employer for wrongful termination?
Here's the tl;dr... No.
This is an interesting question, albeit one that perplexes me. The employee here may be right that they have a civil right to open carry their handgun. That's not my area of focus, so I won't comment more than to say "maybe so." Even so, it strikes me that the weapon probably didn't help this employee place a food order, and he or she knew that the employer had a rule in place prohibiting possession of weapons by employees while working. It seems to me, then, that the reader's decision to carry a visible weapon in the workplace was needlessly provocative.
Now the reader is left in the unfortunate position of having to ask whether their rights have been violated. But wouldn't you rather have your job than a lawsuit? You should. Because the civil law is really only designed to make you whole for wrongs you have already been subjected to, and because you'll have to pay attorneys fees to secure any legal victory, it's never really worth it to get fired (even illegally). Even when the firing is illegal, it's so much better to keep your job.
But this employee either thought he was complying with his employer's rules or didn't care about them, and so here we are. So what's the answer?
No, you probably don't have a case. And to show you why, I'm going to point you to a May 25, 2012 opinion of then Attorney General of Virginia, Kenneth Cuccinelli. As you might know, Attorney General Cuccinelli is a conservative. And his commitment to the rights of gun owners isn't in doubt. In fact, he's now the founding partner of the United Self Defense Law Firm. So the following legal analysis comes to you from the office of an attorney general who looks favorably on the right to bear arms. If you want the full opinion, it's here, but if you just want the good stuff, here's what he said:
An employer can ban firearms on its property if it so chooses. The Constitution of Virginia protects the right to bear arms, but it also recognizes the importance of property rights. Moreover, the Second Amendment acts as a restraint on government, not private parties. Employers can, like any other owner of private property, restrict or ban the carrying of weapons onto their property.
Well, that's our show folks. There's not much else to say. I guess it's possible that you could argue that our reader complied with the letter of his employer's rulebook. But then we get to the old standby: Virginia strongly adheres to the policy of employment at will. Because our reader's employer could fire him or her for anything or for nothing, save a prohibited reason, there's not much to say once we realize that firing someone for carrying a gun is not prohibited by law.
Perhaps its not a great idea to take your gun to work if your employer asks you not to.