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  1. #1
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    Getting "parking lot carry" without becoming a target

    Recently at work we were required to have a refresher course on company policies. Not a big deal as they do this quite routinely and the topics of the refresher typically cover things they found to be an issue in the last year. One issue that was brought up this time was the policies on workplace violence. We were reminded of the company policy on forbidding weapons on company property which included vehicles parked in the parking lot. A few of my co-workers brought this up with me since they knew of my ideological leanings. It seems that there are a number of my co-workers that dislike this policy since some of them are hunters, sport shooters, and/or concerned about their safety.

    Given that there is at least a small portion of the employees at the company that dislike the policy it might be feasible to have enough to get support to change policy. Problem is that I am not aware of anyone willing to stick their neck out to challenge the policy, myself included. Given the downturn in the economy it would be difficult to find new employment if let go, and in an "at will" state there is not much recourse to challenge any termination. There is also company policy that a person, their bags, and their vehicle can be searched at any time. Refusal to allow search is cause for termination. Searches so far have been very rare and is typically limited to looking into backpacks, purses, and lunch boxes.

    I know someone will bring this up so I'll cut this off right now, finding other employment is not an option. Parking off of company property would be quite obvious and I doubt the company would appreciate the distinction between parking across the street vs. on the company lot. Legal action is certainly an option but doing so would very likely reveal the identity of the employees and therefore open them to scrutiny.

    I don't want to sound like I work for some overbearing company in pointing out our fears of bringing up this topic. It's just that it is difficult to find out how the company would react without going forward and doing so might burn bridges we might want to cross. A "don't ask, don't tell" policy might work but that is contingent on the company not asking, and I'm certainly not going to tell. No one will admit to having a firearm in their car but if the company suspects people are keeping firearms in their vehicles, as it seems they might given the topic of our recent training, I fear what they might do next if this suspicion goes any further.

    What are my options? What has worked and not worked where you are?
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  2. #2
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    Here's the thing. They cannot get rid of weapons in the parking lot. Cars, for one, make excellent weapons under certain circumstances. An decent garrote can be made with shoelaces. Many people have been murdered and assaulted with golf clubs (just ask Tiger Woods), tire irons, and battery acid.

    Of course, all of those can be taken away. But the most dangerous weapon known to man cannot be taken from you. That's the one between your ears. Hence, these types of policies are spurious.

    Have your attorney send the company a letter stating that since their policies conflict with your desire for self defense that you are hereby notifying them that you are holding the company responsible for your safety and well being while on the job.
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    The Truth About Company Concerns

    My opinion only; Companies traditionally react poorly to an attorney's letter commonly resulting in a cut off of direct communication between employer and employee. Before going that route I would suggest a question be forwarded through your union rep asking that in light of the company policy was management now assuming liability for employee safety? If not..why not?

    The sad fact is that when it comes to workplace violence most companies (and universities) are more concerned with 'liability" than with actual "employee (student) safety". They know they cannot protect you. So, they make these policies in the feeble hope that if something does happen that the company "policy" will protect them from liability ie,"we got a policy..not our fault." It's disingenuous and morally reprehensible.

  4. #4
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    Sheik Yerbouti is quite correct to point out that the policy on weapons is nonsense. Not only are the cars in the parking lot a weapon so is the large pair of scissors in my desk drawer. Since there is manufacturing on site there is an exception for tools used in the performance of your duties. People will have screwdrivers, blades for opening boxes and cutting wires, hammers, hot soldering irons, etc. Some of the braver people do have quite substantial pocket knives while I'm a coward and keep a very small one.

    asia331, I am not a member of a union and don't plan on joining. Even if I was to join I'm not so sure what the local union policy is on self defense in the workplace, or if they even have a policy. Considering the leanings of most unions in the USA I doubt they consider self defense a right.

    Having a letter from an attorney does not sound like a action that would improve my situation, unless the letter comes from an action by a large number of people and/or the union.
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  5. #5
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    How have the pro-gun laws that respect Parking lot storage of arms been passed in other states?

    Skip you're company reps and go to your elected reps. You are being persecuted because of a hobby.

    Have you tried the Iowa State Rifle and Pistol Association?

    or

    http://www.friendsofnra.org/Events.aspx?sid=16&sc=IA

  6. #6
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    How have the pro-gun laws that respect Parking lot storage of arms been passed in other states?
    There were a number of court cases that challenged the termination of employment because of having firearms in locked vehicles. The courts upheld the right to keep firearms in the car. However none of those court cases cover Iowa. I am not aware of any state law protecting firearms in vehicles. I believe that Iowa law has preemption on matters of firearms so I don't think that any local ordinance would be enforceable.

    Skip you're company reps and go to your elected reps. You are being persecuted because of a hobby.

    Have you tried the Iowa State Rifle and Pistol Association?

    or

    http://www.friendsofnra.org/Events.aspx?sid=16&sc=IA
    I ran into a number of organizations at a local gun show, including the ISRPA and Friends of the NRA. ISRPA is not political and is only concerned with competitive shooting matches. The NRA has been, how shall I put this... absent, silent, when it comes to Iowa.

    Actually, I came across a couple representatives from Iowa Gun Owners and Iowa Carry on a different web forum. I'm discussing their stance on open carry right now. I'll have to bring up parking lot carry in the conversation at some point. From what I can tell Iowa Carry is a one issue group that is lobbying for "shall issue" permits to carry in Iowa. As best I can tell things like parking lot bills and castle doctrine are not on their radar right now. Iowa Gun Owners takes a stronger stance on our right to keep and bear arms. They, as far as I can tell from my conversations with them face to face and online, do believe in parking lot carry protections but I have not seen them bring that into proposed legislation yet.

    I'm already working on the legislative side through Iowa Gun Owners. I'm just looking for more ideas and what others have seen as effective.
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    IA farmboy, I feel for ya buddy, I wish I had something more useful for you.

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    There were a number of court cases that challenged the termination of employment because of having firearms in locked vehicles.
    How long did it take to reach those decisions? How much did it cost the plaintiff?

    I wouldn't say a word. If anyone asked or grumbled to me about it, I'd say, "I don't know what you're talking about, I don't violate company policies". I'd park off of their property if feasible. Otherwise, I'd think about either locking my gun in my car and not doing anything to make them want to search it, or I'd leave it at home.

    There are no other options, unless you believe you can get a critical mass of co-workers to line up behind you before someone told management a mutiny was a-brewin' But since you stated seeking other employment "wasn't an option", you already have your answer... keep your mouth closed, and either don't bring your gun or keep your head way down.

    There is no legal or moral way to force someone else to behave a certain way on their own property. You either live by their rules, or you live by someone else's. Or start your own company and live by your own. Sucks, but that's life in the real world.
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  9. #9
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    I wouldn't say a word. If anyone asked or grumbled to me about it, I'd say, "I don't know what you're talking about, I don't violate company policies". I'd park off of their property if feasible. Otherwise, I'd think about either locking my gun in my car and not doing anything to make them want to search it, or I'd leave it at home.
    The point is more than having a firearm in the car. The point is to let the public (especially the criminals) know that employees are not disarmed by company policy. Crime is going up around here. Most of the crime in the area is in Iowa City and Waterloo which, IMHO, is partly because of the "gun free zone" erected around those areas by the sheriffs and local ordinances. I want the crime to stay there and not come here. It's started to spread up and down the interstate and I want to do what I can to stop that spread. Armed citizens seems like a good approach. A new sheriff has allowed more people to get permits to carry self defense tools outside the home so that is a start. Preventing employers from disarming employees on their commute seems like the logical next step.

    I'm not sure what my breaking point is but violating company policy as you stated is on my mind.

    How long did it take to reach those decisions? How much did it cost the plaintiff?
    Not sure. The court case I'm most aware of was in the Tenth Circuit, IIRC, which upheld a law protecting firearms in the car on company parking lots. I didn't look into it much once I found it did not affect me. I doubt the case will be appealed to a higher court since Heller came down in favor of the right to keep arms.
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  10. #10
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    1. It might be worth your while to park somewhere else.
    2. My personal belief is it's easier to replace jobs than lives, though I'll admit I've never tried to replace my life.
    3. In my experience, people who busy themselves making company rules normally contribute less than .000001% of the value to the company's products and services.
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    I would not pursue an individual approach to the company.

    If you have a union, you could quietly inquire of the leadership whether they wish to make this an issue.

    Working through your state RKBA organization is your safest choice.... state laws eradicating these policies will be obeyed by companies.

    Policies like this are prompted by a "hey, we did everything we could" approach to avoiding potential lawsuits. Most HR professionals care far more about avoiding lawsuits than they do about what is ethical or fair, so they have to be approached from that point of view.
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    Iowa Farm Boy; Many years ago, I drove a semi for a company based in your county. They had same policy, as you now face. Since we were driving most states, and were non-union, this drew the ire of many union types, which in turn caused much anger. Their thinking of course, was we "non-union types" were stealing, "their" jobs. Never-the-less, I carried a weapon, in my vehicle, (for my own protection) and when coming thru the "home port" would break it down, and lock it in my attache case. The case was moved around several times, during inspections, etc, but never was the lock tampered with, to my knowledge. If it was, I was never made aware of it. Enjoyed my employment, and when I quit the job, it was at my own choosings.

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    Opsec

    Absent any stupid comments to arouse suspicion, I figure if any company gets to the point of asking to search my vehicle, that we no longer have a trustworthy working relationship.
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    1. It might be worth your while to park somewhere else.
    Doing so would be VERY obvious. The company provides a large, well lit, and well maintained parking lot. There is no lack of parking in the company parking lot and parking outside the lot is very limited. There is also the issue of personal security, walking outside of the well lit and security monitored lot to walk down a dark street for three or four blocks does not sound like an increase in personal safety even if there is a pistol in the car.

    This is not just about me. I have found others with similar concerns. A loss of people parking in the company parking lot and no reduction in workforce is going to be noticed.

    2. My personal belief is it's easier to replace jobs than lives, though I'll admit I've never tried to replace my life.
    With unemployment well above 10%, with some estimates at almost 20%, nationwide I'll respectfully disagree.

    3. In my experience, people who busy themselves making company rules normally contribute less than .000001% of the value to the company's products and services.
    Agreed. Problem is I work for them, they don't work for me.

    Opsec

    Absent any stupid comments to arouse suspicion, I figure if any company gets to the point of asking to search my vehicle, that we no longer have a trustworthy working relationship.
    Parking off the company lot is going to look odd. Someone is going to say something. No one wants to find out how the company will respond. Mostly no one wants to lose their job. Changing company policy, and doing so as diplomatically as possible, so far seems to be the only viable solution.

    There are two lobby groups I know of that are attempting to change Iowa's firearm laws. One is Iowa Carry and they do not want to tackle "parking lot carry" until there is a shall issue law. I find that to be a rather idiotic stance but that is how they want to play. Iowa Gun Owners is a relatively new, and small, group. From my conversations with people from that group it sounds like parking lot carry is something they are working on. I gave them a donation the last time I saw them, and plan to donate to their cause in the future.
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  15. #15
    I get not wanting to park in a bad location or have to walk through a bad neighborhood but....

    Parking off the company lot is going to look odd. Someone is going to say something. No one wants to find out how the company will respond.
    I just don't understand this part. Why would the company care what is in your car when it's not on their property?

    Personally I'd just park in your usual place and trust in "don't ask don't tell". If they ever asked to search my car I'd refuse regardless of if I had a firearm in it or not because it's simply none of their business. Sarge's idea of keeping the gun in a separate small locked container sounds like a good idea as well.

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    Union rep??? What would they do if he had one?

    The best thing you can do is get your state rep to work on the unemployment side of it. That means that simple posession is not just cause for fireing as far as unemployment is concerned. That means your claim would be filed against the employer and thus thier insurance rates would go up. That way you would not get into "witch hunts" come slow downs or somebody want a job at your expense.

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    IA f: Parking off of company property would be quite obvious and I doubt the company would appreciate the distinction between parking across the street vs. on the company lot.

    Farmboy, are you telling me that your beancounters expect to enforce their gun ban across the street, off their corporate property? I think the proper answer to that consists of two words, the second being "-you!"

    However, this is the kind of problem that the hillbilly engineer in me would just love to sink teeth into. PM me with the model and year of your car, and let's build a secret compartment or hiding place in there that they'd never find in a million years. Wahoo!

    Parker

  18. #18
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    Farmboy, are you telling me that your beancounters expect to enforce their gun ban across the street, off their corporate property? I think the proper answer to that consists of two words, the second being "-you!"
    Yep, and two seconds after those words leave my lips I'll be asked to pack up my stuff. Or not. Not sure I want to find out. Scratch that, I'm quite sure I don't want to find out.

    The policies on "work place violence" are foggy on what exactly is a violation. Refusal to comply with a search is grounds for termination. I don't know how far they are willing to push this but, again, I don't want to find out.

    Again, I will point out the goal here is not to be armed in my drive to and from work. The goal is to let the criminals be uncertain about who is armed on their commute. The ban on the keeping of weapons in the car seems to be nearly universal around here. Crooks are going to be quite certain that anyone they encounter is going to be unarmed during the work day.

    I thought some more about where people could park near work but off company property and there really isn't much available. I'm not sure where I could park legally. It seems that parking off company property is not an option either.
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    Okay, well, in that case I don't know what I can do for you. If your company (and perhaps others nearby) disarm employees by their policy, and those employees all obey the policy for fear of being fired, and criminals know about the policy, then where's the uncertainty going to come from?

    Parker, scratching my head...

  20. #20
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    If your company (and perhaps others nearby) disarm employees by their policy, and those employees all obey the policy for fear of being fired, and criminals know about the policy, then where's the uncertainty going to come from?
    From changing company policy.
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    Company policy will change when an outside authority forces it to change -- law, or threat of a lawsuit, or possibly collective bargaining in some form. The forces that form company policies are fear of the external, not the sentiment of the internal... I hate that about them, but that's what the animal is.
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    So have vehicles actually been searched? If so, how? For example, are they taking a dog through the lot and searching the vehicles on which that dog alerts? That would seem to present an opportunity to create a dog-that-cried-wolf scenario, over and over: all of you shooters could wear something to work that you have worn at the range, and make sure that all of your gear on the way to the range and back is stowed in such a fashion as to maximize the transmission of scent to the vehicle. The trick would be to ensure that the car is completely clear of anything that would constitute an actual violation of policy, then park near the door, so as to be the first car on which the dog alerts. You get called to the parking lot, the dog alerts on you as well, but both you and the car are squeaky clean. Your shooting buddies give the dog the same runaround. Repeat at random intervals. After a while the routine gets old, and the company gets tired of the game. Multiple fruitless attempts to enforce a stupid policy will help when the political angle that others have suggested begins to bear fruit: an ongoing lack of results from the workplace searches, combined with stirrings from the state capital about making such practices illegal, could create a situation in which the policy would simply evaporate.

  23. #23
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    To my knowledge no cars have been searched. The goal is not to go armed on the drive home, despite policy, but to leave the criminals guessing if people are armed. As long as the policy against leaving firearms in cars exists and is nearly universal the criminals will be confident that very few people will be armed. History shows that more guns == less crime. There does not have to be an actual increase in gun ownership, just the perception of it.

    Over the weekend I saw an article on the Des Moines Register website that said a parking lot bill is likely to be introduced to the Iowa Congress after the holiday break. Hopefully it will pass and my wishes come true.
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  24. #24
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    Wish I could remember the name of the case, but the Federal District Court ruled that you have an absolute right to have a gun in your car at work. A couple of guys who worked (if I remember correctly) for Weyerhauser got fired because of similar rules against "guns on company property", and the court ruled that they did not lose their right to self defense just because they entered the property where that business was operating. I'm sure the NRA-ILA could give you details. I looked in my email, but their email alert that discussed this had been deleted.

    Our company has a similar policy, and after talking to my lawyer, he said that IF I was carrying in my car that I should make the company accuse me of a CRIME before allowing them to search my car, and only then after calling the police to conduct the search... which keeps the legal standard of reasonable suspicion in effect. Since carrying a gun in this state isn't illegal, they would have to have proof that I was doing something illegal to conduct the search and would need a warrant, which might be difficult to get with no proof of a crime being committed.

    The way our rules are written, it says that "if you refuse to allow a search", it is insubordination, and you can be fired... but what they don't do is to spell out what constitutes a search. My lawyer's advice there was "open the doors and allow them to look inside the car without opening anything... not the glove box, console, bag, paper, or sack. If a gun is in the car, it would have to be visible from ordinary view, or someone "looking in the car"... not opening the trunk, glove box, etc. to find it. That search requires a warrant, just like anything else that accuses you of a crime... and carrying a gun on private property is not a crime unless your state has a specific law forbiding it.

    Wish I could be more specific on the name of that case, but I got an NRA-ILA newsletter about it in my email about six months ago, and I printed it off and took it to the HR department... for consideration of policy changes. Being in charge of the safety committee, I have put some real pressure on them to update the policy to comply with the current case law, rather than their liberal bent toward the prohibition of weapons.

    BTW, finding a rifle case, loaded magazine for a pistol, or anything of that sort still doesn't constitute "finding a gun"... there is no prohibition of having gun parts or coverings in your car, so unless they get a warrant and conduct a legal search and find the gun, they still have no evidence... and unless they have evidence that you committed a crime and the gun was an element of that crime, it's still their burden of proof, and they are in fact violating the federal district court ruling by prohibiting your exercising your 2nd amendment rights. As a matter of course, most states recognize your car as a "dwelling" and you have the same rights in your car as your home, especially if it's parked.

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    Last edited by wristtwister; December 21st, 2009 at 10:50 PM. Reason: BTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by wristtwister
    Wish I could remember the name of the case, but the Federal District Court ruled that you have an absolute right to have a gun in your car at work....
    I wish you could too. Of course, one thing to remember is that the Federal District Court is the trial court in the federal judicial system. Rulings at that level are not precedent and are not binding on anyone other than the parties to the litigation. A court ruling is only precedent when made by a court of appeals (a Federal Circuit Court in the federal system), and even then it's only precedent within the jurisdiction of that court of appeal.

    Quote Originally Posted by wristtwister
    ...I'm sure the NRA-ILA could give you details....
    Why would I bother? You brought it up. It's your place to provide a citation and the details.

    Quote Originally Posted by wristtwister
    ...Our company has a similar policy, and after talking to my lawyer, he said that IF I was carrying in my car that I should make the company accuse me of a CRIME before allowing them to search my car, and only then after calling the police to conduct the search... which keeps the legal standard of reasonable suspicion in effect. Since carrying a gun in this state isn't illegal, they would have to have proof that I was doing something illegal to conduct the search and would need a warrant, which might be difficult to get with no proof of a crime being committed....
    Maybe you have some unique laws where you live. Or maybe either your lawyer is confused or you're confused about what your lawyer has told you.

    Some states do have laws that do not allow an employer to prohibit an employee from having a gun in his car in a company parking lot. Florida is one. The laws of some states may provide additional protections for an employee's privacy.

    But in general an employer can require that as a condition of employment an employee shall have been deemed to have consented to a search of his work area, bags or briefcases, and his car while parked on company property. The employer would generally require no suspicion or probable cause, and the employer would have no need to charge the employee with a crime. Nor would the employer need to have the police do the search. An employee's refusal to allow a search would usually be grounds for termination of employment.

    If the employer's rules prohibit guns on the property and if the employer finds a gun in the employee's car, or anything else the employee is not permitted by company policy to have on company premises, the employer has grounds to terminate the employee's employment. It doesn't matter that the possession of the gun in the employee's car is legal. The employee may well have committed no crime. But he has violated a condition of employment.

    Quote Originally Posted by IA_farmboy
    ...Over the weekend I saw an article on the Des Moines Register website that said a parking lot bill is likely to be introduced to the Iowa Congress after the holiday break. Hopefully it will pass and my wishes come true.
    That's really your best hope. I wish you success getting it passed.

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