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Small to midsize business owners, and for their employees who work in account service in some capacity, meeting with clients and customers to do a face-to-face can serve a multitude of purposes. It can get you fired or end the business relationship. It can provide you the opportunity to upsell products and services, or renegotiate a current contract. It can give you the opportunity to ditch the office and head out to a spectator sport or go for a round on the golf course. But for all the benefits behind wanting to meet your client in-person, most of us in Arizona never even consider the reasons not to. Here’s something to think about before you step into a conference room:
Are employers and their clients aware of guns in the workplace?
What Lurks Behind Company Doors Can Kill You
Now I’ve got you thinking… about the last time you set foot in your office, their office, or maybe the last pitch you gave to a business prospect. You see, we all take a lot for granted when we step into the workplace, whether it’s a warehouse, retail center, office complex, high rise, or somewhere in the field. We take our safety for granted because we assume the environment is safe. And you know what they say about the word ass-u-me…
Imagine sitting in the reception area of your favorite client’s headquarters. Just because they require a fob for entry, or there’s a sign-in sheet that gives you the right to enter by signature, doesn’t mean the employees and third-parties in tow are: 1. Reasonable human beings and, 2. without a weapon.
It’s the negligence of people and flaws in the law that put us all at risk.
Why Violence in the Workplace
Contrary to popular belief, statistics for U.S. places of work show that most homicides are related to domestic violence, robberies or suicides (the latter may have a lot to do with the opioid crisis and subsequent accidental overdoses). From here, the types of work place further segments this statistic. For example, convenience store workers and their customers have a 7x increased risk for on the job death than other types of companies.
Unless you work from home and never have a need to interact with people (other than in the digital space) there are dangers in where we work, some known, others not so much.
There’s a strange subliminal code that we, unwittingly and subconsciously, are supposed to buy into and it is based on the premise of trust. We use trust in our personal relationships (if you don’t you better check yourself) and usually apply it in one of two ways:
- Trust but verify
- Trust is earned
Though the above characteristics of applied trust don’t always align in the workplace, maybe they should. In Arizona, and many other states, we seem to favor the right to bear arms over safety. Here’s how.
Arizona Gun Laws at Work
If you’re a gun enthusiast, you may already know some of these stats. For those who don’t, this will be eye-opening.
Gun Ownership in Arizona
- 325,421 active licenses to carry a concealed weapon (CCW)
- 37 other states will honor Arizona CCW
Yeah. That’s a lot of firearms power. There are stipulations in place to get an AZ CCW, though not prohibitive for most.
Required for an Arizona CCW gun permit:
- Cost for permit – $60.00
- Duration before expiration – 5 years
- Minimum age of applicant – 21
- Lawfully in the U.S.
- Arizona residency OR U.S. citizen
- Completion of approved U.S. firearms training course
- No felony convictions or pending charges
- No mental health diagnosis of record
This is scary for anyone not comfortable with owning a gun. Now that you know the ease of the process in gun ownership in Arizona, and the wait time for an application is just 75 days, how many people that you work with would, could or do carry? And where?
Protections for Arizona Gun Owners and Non Owners
No matter which side of the gun ownership coin you stand on, here’s an overview of where it’s cool to carry, and where it isn’t:
- In a vehicle
- Road side rest stops
- National forests
- State forests and parks
- School property (WHAT???)
- ONLY IF you’re an adult in a vehicle and unload the firearm before entering the school grounds.
- To exit the vehicle, the unloaded firearm must stay in the vehicle, out of plain sight and locked inside.
- Elsewhere in Arizona as long as it is not on the Off-Limits list.
Any establishment that has a no gun policy must have a readily visible sign stating so. In addition, these specific places are cited as Off Limits by law:
- Liquor retailer with no weapons sign posted
- Nuclear generating and hydroelectric generating facilities
- Election day polling places
- School property
- The grounds of any school
- Correctional facilities
- Federal law prohibitions
But what about businesses that do allow gun carry in the workplace?
Liabilities for Business Owners with Gun Carry Policies
Places of business are required to integrate best practices at their premises in health and safety for employers, employees, and third-party entities. This falls under the purview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition to the need for a Drug Policy in place, businesses should be vigilant about having a Workplace Violence Prevention Program and training employees on how to use it, should an event occur that requires response.
This isn’t just about the people that come under the employ of a company, but their family members, as well as external vendors, clients and customers.
Precautions should go beyond what is legal and recommended. Consider the loopholes. We’ve seen the repercussions of those who have the right to carry, or know someone who does, inflicting harm on others because no one noticed or cited their adverse emotional behaviors to authorities.
In a business, employers and coworkers are the authorities, in a sense. “If you see something, say something,” comes to mind. This is where human frailty comes into play. There’s only so much that each of us can predict. The rest is up to chance. Is there truly any security in place for that?
The Four Pillars of Protection
Now enter your client’s workplace. Even if they have a no gun policy (and a sign posted as clear as day) does that make you feel any safer? Probably not (from the perspective of gun enthusiasts and non-advocates).
Here’s what the law provides to help keep a balance between safety and freedom.
General Duty Clause. OSHA guidelines require employers to provide a safe working environment. If this is in lack and a workplace violence event takes place due to the improper provisions or safeguards related to firearms, the business will be cited.
Workers’ Compensation. Governed by individual state, employees who are injured as a result of a firearm can file a claim for benefits.
Negligence Claims. Business owners are liable if they employ a person with known or exhibited tendencies or behaviors that indicate the possibility of inflicting harm on others in the workplace. This includes clients or customers at the business as well as persons (contractors) at the company. Should someone be injured at a place of business with these circumstances, the employer would liable under state law through any or all; negligent hiring, negligent supervision, or negligent retention.
Vicarious Liability. This is evident when an employee, during their working hours and typical designated job scope, uses a firearm to injure someone else.
Of course all of the above pillars of protection are subject to interpretation and other mitigating circumstances. Yet this still seems to do little to support workplace safety and the risks of allowing firearms in the workplace.
How Long Can We Dodge the Bullet in the Office?
You’re in your car, heading out to meet a client or clock in for the day. How many people, in the cars around you, are AZ CCW licensed?
You’ve arrived at your client’s office or, for that matter, your own place of business. Do you know who has a license to carry? Any idea who keeps a firearm in their car? Which beloved client or coworker keeps one in their desk, a purse or backpack, even with a no gun policy?
Unless they share their personal information with you about how they handle gun ownership (or abhor it) you’ll never know. Until they find an opportunity in the workplace that would warrant its use. And in that moment, what would you do? What could you do?
Does greater safety in the workplace equate to more firearms, or less? Is there a need for armed guards? Designated, lawful gun carrying employees? Metal detectors upon entry and exit? Individual pat downs and searches? Or do we all insist on work-from-home employment?
Is anyone safe in an Arizona workplace anymore? Are you?