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Texas’ new “Open Carry” law took effect on January 1. What does this mean for Texas employers?

What Does “Open Carry” Mean?

Under the Texas Open Carry law, holders of a concealed handgun license may now carry their holstered handguns in plain view.

Can Employers Still Prohibit Firearms at Work?

Yes. Texas employers still have the right to prohibit holders of concealed handgun licenses from carrying their firearms onto the premises of the business, whether they are concealed or openly carried.

But, keep in mind that “premises” does not include parking lots or parking garages. This restriction has not changed.  Texas law allows holders of concealed handgun licenses, as well as those who otherwise lawfully possess a firearm, to store firearms or ammunition in a locked, privately owned car in a parking garage, lot, or other usual place for parking.

Can Employers Allow the Carry of Concealed or Openly Carried Handguns?

Yes. If an employer chooses to allow all persons to carry a concealed or openly carried handgun, the employer does not have to do anything.

However, there is a important new risk to employers who allow openly carried handguns. Past legislation granted employers immunity from civil actions resulting from occurrences involving an employee and his or her firearm stored or transported in the employees’ vehicle, except in cases of gross negligence.  The Open Carry law does not grant employers immunity in the case of civil actions involving an employee and his or her openly carried firearm.

Do Employers Have to Post a Sign to Ban Handguns on Their Premises?

No.  There are several proper ways to ban handguns on company premises.  Employers are not required to post signs to ban handguns.

First, the company can give oral notice to any person that handguns (whether concealed or open) are not allowed on the premises. That is, someone who has authority on behalf of the company can verbally tell any person (i.e., employee, vendor, or visitor) that handguns are prohibited.

Second, companies can give each person entering the premises written notice that they are not allowed to carry a handgun.  Companies could distribute a memo to all employees, include the notice in an employee handbook, or hand out individual cards to anyone entering the property.  For criminal liability to attach for violation of the Texas Penal Code’s provisions for trespass by a license holder with a concealed or openly carried handgun, the written notice must use the exact language specified by Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Penal Code.

Third, if a company wants to make sure everyone entering the premises is aware that handguns are banned, and for criminal liability to attach for trespass by a license holder with a handgun, the company can post a sign “displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.” In other words, it needs to be visible at every entrance to the property.  The sign must use the exact language specified in Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Penal Code, it must appear in both English and Spanish, and it must be written in contrasting colors with block letters that are at least an inch tall.

As Texas Open Carry has only been in effect since January 1, 2016, further issues will likely crop up. We recommend all employers stay aware of developments over the coming months.