Friday, March 30, 2007

Texas Workers Protection Legislation!

There are several bills floating around the Texas Legislature that attempt to deal with the issue of employers firing CHL holders if the employer discovers a firearm in the CHL holders vehicle. This is a good idea that would not be necessary if it were not for corporations overstepping their bounds when trying to control all aspects of the lives of their employees. There is a small problem though, the idea has gone sour with the bills that have the most likelihood of passing.

Senate Bill 534 (SB 534) and House Bill 992 (HB 992) are companion bills titled "Relating to certain rights and liabilities of an employer regarding an employee's access to a concealed handgun."

It all sounds well and good. The NRA-ILA has sent out the mass mailing requesting Texas firearm owners to contact their legislators and urge support for these bills and HB 220 (I will comment upon HB 220 shortly).

This is how the NRA-ILA describes these bills:

All three bills would allow Concealed Handgun Licensees to transport and store handguns in their locked, private motor vehicles while parked on their employer’s property. HB992 and SB534 also provide employers with protection from civil liability for the unforeseeable acts of criminals.
Sounds great doesn't it?

There is one major flaw with two of these bills. Let us see if you can pick it out -


(a) A public or private employer may not discharge, discipline, or penalize in any manner an employee because the employee:

(1) applied for a license to carry a concealed handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;

(2) holds a license under that subchapter; or

(3) transports or stores a handgun the employee is licensed to carry under that subchapter in the employee's locked motor vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees if the handgun is hidden from plain view and the employee has filed with the employee's immediate supervisor:

(A) a written statement signed by the employee stating that the employee:

(i) is licensed to carry a concealed handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;

(ii) intends to store a concealed handgun in the employee's locked motor vehicle while parked in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees; and

(iii) may not remove the handgun from the employee's vehicle for any purpose other than self-defense in the immediate parking area; and

(B) a copy of the employee's license to carry a concealed handgun issued to the employee by the Department of Public Safety under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.
Okay, so I gave you a hint.

The requirement for an employee to inform the employer in writing of his or her CHL status pretty much renders this law useless for many. CHL holders who work for companies or individuals who are anti gun, are not going to notify them, in writing, that they have a firearm in the car. CHL holders are not stupid. Texas is an "at will" employment state, and the employer may not state that a CHL holder was fired for having a firearm in the car, but any other excuse will work. Future performance evaluations will be affected and promotions missed. These bills accomplish absolutely nothing for CHL holders, or for anyone else who happens to have a firearm in the vehicle (in Texas, it is legal to have a long gun in your vehicle at all times).

Yesterday, SB 534 passed the Senate. HB 992 (the companion to 534) and HB 220 have passed through the Law Enforcement Committee and are awaiting scheduling through the Calender Committee.

HB 220 is a much better bill. It contains no requirement for the CHL holder to notify the employer of his or her status as a CHL holder. HB 220 simply states:

Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, a public or private employer may not establish, maintain, or enforce any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting a person licensed under this subchapter from transporting or storing a concealed handgun in a locked vehicle in any parking lot, parking garage, or other designated parking area.
The issue I have with this bill is the following verbiage:

A private employer may prohibit an employee from transporting or storing a concealed handgun in a vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees if:

(1) the parking lot, garage, or other area is completely surrounded by a gate and is not open to the public; and

(2) ingress to and egress from the parking lot, garage, or other area are monitored by security personnel.
A secure parking lot does not do any good for the CHL holder while they travel to and from work.

There is a third bill sitting in committee. HB 1037 effectively addresses both employee and employer issues as they relate to firearms in vehicles.

For the employee:

(b) A public or private employer may not discharge, discipline, or penalize in any manner an employee because the employee transported or stored a firearm in the employee's locked motor vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle was located on the employer's property.
For the employer:

(g) A public or private employer is not liable in a civil action for damages resulting from an occurrence involving the storage of a firearm in the motor vehicle of an employee.
HB 1037 is an excellent bill, that has no chance of passage in this legislative session. Personally, I am willing to wait until such a time as a bill such as this can be passed. But I acknowledge that we do need some employee protection.

So this is what I would recommend;

Contact your House Representative and let them know that you fully support HB 1037 and would like to see it released from committee for debate on the House Floor. Baring that, let them know that you would prefer they support HB 220 over HB 992. Give them good reasons why you are against HB 992 and why you would support HB 220.

In defense of the NRA's support of SB 534/HB 992 is the fact that this is the most contested piece of pro-gun legislation that has been put before the Texas Legislature. Castle Doctrine was a breeze compared to this. Many of Texas's largest employers have come out very strongly against these bills. The fact that SB 534 made it through the Senate is testament to the hard work of the lobbyist and Senators who are trying to get some protection for CHL holders. It is easy for me to be a hardliner when I am sitting at my keyboard. I do not want to minimize the work that is being done on our behalf in the legislature. If SB 534/HB 992 passes, the requirement to provide written notification, if abused by companies, can be fought in a future legislative session.

1 comment:

Fits said...

I've been working my fingers to the bone in getting Florida HB 1417 through committee, and its worth it. It is a simple bill, don't ask, don't tell, and bans employers from terminating an employee who keeps a firearm in his locked vehicle. We're a simple people and its a simple bill. Terminate someone for finding a gun in their car and its a hefty fine, and just wait for the ensuing lawsuit from the fired associate. Business was using the lame excuse that it can be hard enough as it is to terminate a bad worker, and many, many, behind closed door discussions were necessary to calm legitimate fears.

Canning a minority member IS difficult, and we may have to bend a little on this by changing the law to encompass concealed weapon permit carriers at first, because most folks agree that it is nearly impossible for bad-actors to obtain a CCW license, thus calming the admittedly worried mom & pop stores. The big company's can run as many background checks as they wish to, but none of us wanted to add even more paperwork and cost to small businesses.

I dislike excluding anyone but bad guys from owning and carrying guns, and some of the fallout from this might include a cheap and easy way for small business owners to be able to get an inexpensive background check on a perspective employee.

Its complicated as hell, but there is no reason on earth a large company need worry about upstanding citizens bringing a gun to and from work as long as it is left in their personal vehicles. We even balked at first about the "locked" stipulation, just to give them something to beat us on, but we're not bending on businesses with over 10 employees.Then there are the pizza delivery workers. Since the UF campus is in town, even a medium sized restaurant can hire and fire a half dozen deliverymen a day, but sometimes the Constitution has to be the Constitution, and if an employer can't wait for a background check then they can't wait.

Like I said, its complicated. No one wants to hurt business but a great many of the complaints were kneejerk responses from company's that simply wanted to be lord and master.