Cleveland lawyer shopping anti-self-defense op-ed
Attorney Stephanie E. Trudeau, a Cleveland employment and labor lawyer who can be reached at [email protected] or (216) 621-8400, has issued an anti-self-defense press release instructing businesses on the merits of banning licensees from carrying their firearms while at work, while shopping, or simply while visiting on business.
This attorney's agenda is as transparent as it is one-sided. What kind of legal advice fails to address half of the law? The kind from a partner at the Cleveland office of Ulmer & Berne LLP, apparently. Expect to see it in all the papers as the latest installment of Rotten Apples and Sour Grapes.
Click on the "Read More..." link below for Trudeau's op-ed, and our commentary.
Our comments are presented in blue.
Ohio's New Concealed Weapons Law Hastens Need for Workplace No Weapons Policy
By Stephanie E. Trudeau, Esq.
It used to be that employers thought they didn't need a handgun policy in their workplace. Who would bring a gun to work? But think again: Ohio's new concealed weapons law means employers should seriously consider whether to put a handgun policy in place.
The question isn't "who would bring a gun to work?" so much as it is "who would seek to disarm law-abiding citizens while at work?", since for years violent criminals have ignored all office policies, prohibitions, and gun control laws when they decide to kill.
Without a rule, employers should not be surprised if employees start bringing guns to work. Prohibiting concealed weapons can be especially important if an employer conducts business in any of the places where it is still illegal to carry a gun, even under the new law.
If, in the course of their jobs, employees are required to conduct business in areas named victim zones in HB12 to write their own prohibitions, CHL holders could also simply be instructed in an employee handbook to follow all laws regarding where they may carry, and where they may not. The necessity of a blanket prohibition here is obviously false.
When it takes effect April 8, 2004, the new law gives law-abiding citizens and mentally competent Ohioans, 21 and older, the right to carry concealed handguns.
And that will mean guns in workplaces too unless employers explicitly and directly tell employees "no guns."
We know it all too well from years of experience with Ohio's concealed carry ban - if the employer says "no guns", the only people who bring guns into the workplace will be the ones who intend to kill. And no signs or employee manual will stop them.
Employers also can prohibit guns in vehicles if that vehicle will be parked on the business' property. The same prohibition applies to guns in company-owned or leased cars.
Kentucky law does not allow businesses to dictate what CHL-holders keep in their vehicles while on business property. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Manufacturer's Association fought for the provision in HB12 which allows businesses to tell you what you may (not) keep in your car while in their parking lot. Senator Steve Stivers carried water for them in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
Did any of these lobbyists think to call the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce before testifying before the Senate in opposition to this provision in HB12? Did they ask if there have been problems with liability or insurance issues, or with compliance to OSHA standards, or with ANYTHING at all to do with the Kentucky parking lot exception? NO. But we did:
Mr. Jeff Alan, Director of Legislative Education in the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, has told OFCC that they did not oppose this language when the bill was being considered. Further, he said that in the 7 years since the law was passed, they haven't had EVEN ONE report of a business having troubles with the parking lot exemption. What's more, there is no history of any litigation on the issue. Mr. Jim Ford, Director of Business Education, travels around the state to businesses large and small. He concurred with Mr. Alan.
The thing to keep in mind here is this: Kentucky's law, unlike HB12, does not give KY businesses the blanket immunity that HB12 does. So what do Ohio's business lobbyists have to fear? Nothing. Once again, we are reduced in this debate to arguing about the "what-ifs", as if there is no wealth of experience from which to answer the questions.
The law also forbids weapons in any business in a state-owned building or property. An employer who leases a state-owned building or property better make sure that no employee brings a gun. Guns are also prohibited in airport passenger terminals, public buildings where liquor is served, university and college campuses, places of worship, child and family daycare centers, among other places and anywhere federal or state law already says guns are off limits.
This makes no sense. Since the law already prohibits this, why is Trudeau recommending that businesses located in these places add the prohibition to their company policies?
A "No Guns at Work" Policy
But employers need to make their no guns policy explicit. They can avoid legal headaches and potential catastrophe by simply including a well-crafted no weapons policy in their employee handbooks.
What this anti-gun attorney has failed to address how businesses are exposing themselves to risk and potential catastrophe if they prohibit licenseholders from their property, and then something happens.
Not long ago, in Massacheusetts (one of the most anti-gun states in the nation), CHL holders who commute into that state for work (and are rendered defenseless while there) were forced to watch in defenseless horror as a former co-worker rampaged through their office building, killing indiscriminately.
It will only take one such horror from happening in Ohio for lawsuits challenging the legal exemption which allows businesses to make their employees and customers completely defenseless. We hope the tragedy never comes. But unfortunately, the more defenseless victim zones created in Ohio, the more likely that it will.
Here are some pointers on establishing a comprehensive weapons policy:
* Clearly state that employees are not allowed to carry any weapons (i.e., guns, handguns, firearms) on company premises, including parking lots and company cars.
* Spell out actions that will be taken should an employee bring a weapon to the workplace (i.e., immediate termination).
* Make sure all employees are aware of the policy by placing it in the employee handbook.
Again, such policies will ensure that only people who intend to do harm will enter the premisis armed.
Other items to consider:
* Outline procedures for reporting incidents of workplace harassment, intimidation or violence against an employee or company property. Especially now, these can dangerously escalate.
This is as false as claims that incidents of road rage will increase. Hasn't happened in other states, won't happen here.
* Be sure you have a thorough policy for screening new hires.
In a recent email alert, the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence recommended that employers discriminate against CHL holders in the hiring process. Is Trudeau's own advice code for such discrimination?
* Develop a list of warning signs about potentially violent employees.
* Include a list of resources for employees on how to deal with stress.
The idea that carrying a firearm for self-defense, or the accessibility of that firearm, will turn a normal person into a violent offender is ludicrous. Business should already be on the lookout for violent persons. As mentioned previously, those are the type who care nothing for the law, including those requiring obtaining a license to carry.
The new law does provide legal immunity to private employers who are sued for injury, death or loss of personal property related to a concealed gun on their premises. But why take any risk? With a thoughtfully developed policy, widely disseminated and clearly enforced, you can keep your workplace safe and productive.
Sadly, the immunity provision covers business who fail to allow CHL holders on their property. Trudeau fails to address the fact that here is just as much risk to those employers, for rendering their employees defenseless.
Stephanie E. Trudeau, Esq. is a partner practicing employment and labor law in the Cleveland office of Ulmer & Berne LLP. She can be reached at [email protected] or (216) 621-8400.
Ulmer & Berne Description: Ulmer & Berne LLP, established in 1908, is one of Ohio's largest law firms. A full-service firm with 160 attorneys in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Chicago, Ulmer & Berne represents financial institutions, publicly and privately held companies, family businesses, international joint ventures and affiliations, investor groups, entrepreneurial start-ups, public bodies and nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.ulmer.com.
During debate on HB12 in the Senate, amidst demands from the OCC and OMA that the parking lot exemption be removed, we suggested that businesses who choose to ban license-holders also loose their civil immunity. It is our position that businesses should have to face the legal consequences of rendering their customers and employees defenseless as they travel to and from that place of business. Because once again, experience proves unarmed citizens are much more likely to be injured (or worse) when attacked) than someone who defends themself.