Janie’s got a gun, unless her employer forbids it

On July 8, 2011, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law new legislation permitting licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons.

The law will go into effect on the first day of the fourth month beginning after publication; meaning if the bill is published in July as planned, it should go into effect on Nov. 1, 2011.

To ban weapons, businesses (including hospitals, clinics and nursing homes) will need to post signs. Additionally, employers should consider reviewing and revising workplace weapons policies.

How the law changed regarding concealed weapons
Under the new legislation, Wisconsin residents aged 21 and older may carry concealed weapons anywhere in the state (with some exceptions). The person must also be properly trained and licensed in order to carry the weapon. Concealed weapons will still not be allowed in schools, police stations, prisons or jails, courthouses, government offices that have electronic screening devices, airports (beyond security checkpoints only) and private residences (not owned by the weapon carrier).
Nursing homes constitute a nonresidential public building.

To ban weapons, signs must be posted
Nonresidential buildings may prevent licensed individuals from carrying a concealed weapon into the building by posting signs. Signs must be at least 5 by 7 inches and posted in a conspicuous location near all of the building’s entrances (or near all of the entrances to the part of the building in which the restriction applies).
Even if a sign is posted, the new legislation does not make it illegal for an individual carrying weapons in his/her vehicle to drive into the parking lot of the building restricting gun access. The owner can still prohibit bringing weapons anywhere on its premises. However, it is up to the owner to enforce its parking lot policy (i.e. it is not illegal).

What about employers?
Employers can prohibit employees from carrying weapons while at work, both at the place of business and off-site locations. That being said, employers cannot prohibit employees from carrying or storing a weapon in their vehicle. This is true even if the employee uses the motor vehicle during work or parks it in the employer’s parking lot. Although not addressed by the legislation, employers could consider imposing reasonable restrictions on how the gun is stored in the motor vehicle (i.e. locked in glove box, stored in trunk, etc.).

Employer incentives for allowing employees to carry
Employers are offered an incentive under this legislation to not ban their employees from carrying weapons. Under the new legislation, an employer that does not prohibit its employees from carrying a concealed weapon is given immunity from lawsuits for any liability arising from that policy decision.

What’s next?
Because the legislation was signed on July 8, 2011, and is expected to be published by the end of this month, the nonresidential buildings and workplace restrictions should go into effect on Nov, 1, 2011 (first day of the fourth month after it is published).

Barret V. Van Sicklen is an attorney at DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., which has offices in Brookfield and Madison.

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