September 16, 2013

A client recently inquired: "We can deal with Obamacare and pension reform, but do we really need to allow our employees to carry concealed firearms?" Another client reported: "One of our employees is a little too excited about the new concealed carry law. Do I need to let her bring her gun into our workplace?”

The Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act, effective July 9, 2013, generally allows individuals who obtain a state license to carry a concealed firearm. However, this doesn't mean employers must allow the workplace to revert to the Wild West. Employers should also be aware that concealed firearms are not permitted everywhere.

Specifically, employers may prohibit employees (and vendors, customers and visitors) from carrying concealed firearms in the workplace as long as a sign is "clearly and conspicuously posted at the entrance" stating that firearms are prohibited on the premises. But take note that the sign must meet certain specifications: it must be exactly 4 inches by 6 inches in size and must be of a yet-to-be-determined "uniform design." The Department of State Police is charged with the responsibility of developing and articulating the required design. There is no telling when their guidance will be available.

Even if employers can ban guns in the workplace, they cannot prohibit any employee from storing a gun in a vehicle, even if the vehicle is parked on the employer's property, provided that the employee has an Illinois license to carry a concealed weapon and the firearm is stored in a concealed case (such as the trunk, closed glove compartment or console, or other container) "within a locked vehicle or locked container out of plain view."

That said, there are a litany of locations where concealed weapons remain prohibited (including parking areas), such as the following:

  • Pre-school and child care facilities

  • Private elementary and secondary schools

  • Courts and other government buildings

  • Adult and juvenile detention or correctional institutions, prisons, and jails

  • Public and private hospitals, mental health facilities, and nursing homes

  • Buses, trains, and public transportation systems and facilities

  • Establishments that derive more than 50 percent of their gross receipts from alcohol sales

  • Public gathering and special event venues that require a government permit

  • Any property or building that has been issued a Special Event Retailer's license

  • Public playgrounds

  • Municipality and park district parks, athletic areas, and athletic facilities

  • Cook County Forest Preserves

  • Public and private community colleges, colleges, and universities

  • Collegiate and professional sporting event stadiums and arenas

  • Public libraries

  • Amusement parks

  • Zoos and museums

How soon can Illinois employers expect their employees to begin carrying concealed weapons in their vehicles? The Department of State Police may take up to 180 days (until January 5, 2014) to create the license application, and the licensing board can take up to 90 days to process a submitted application. This mean that until the Illinois licensing board actually begins issuing licenses to carry concealed firearms, Illinois employees remain prohibited from doing so, irrespective of any license they may have obtained in other states.

With all of that in mind, Illinois employers who do not want employees (or vendors, customers or visitors) to carry concealed firearms onto their premises should use this time to take the following steps:

  • In a conspicuous place at the entrance to the building or the premises, post a sign measuring 4 inches by 6 inches in size stating that firearms are prohibited on the premises. And once the Department of State Police articulates its design specifications, conform signs to meet those additional requirements.

  • Disseminate written employee policies that likewise state that firearms are prohibited in the workplace.

Of course, this is an evolving area, and there is no telling how far down the slope the Illinois legislature will slip. But for now, these steps will allow Illinois employers to lawfully put employees and others on notice that firearms are not permitted on their premises.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.