Effective November 1, 2011, the Wisconsin legislature enacted a new concealed carry law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 35 (the “Act”). Wisconsin joined the other 48 states that allow their residents to carry concealed weapons. In essence, the Act permits qualified residents to carry certain concealed weapons, including electric weapons, into parks, beaches, private business properties, and places of employment. This blog is intended to address the following two issues: (i) how the new law may affect the Wisconsin property owners and employers, and (ii) what should the property owners and employers do to minimize the risks associated with the new law.
In theory, property owners or employers should not be affected by the Act, whether they decide to permit or prohibit concealed weapons on their premises. Practically, however, it may not be the case. A property owner or an employer should consider at least the following two factors in evaluating the affects and risks associated with the new concealed carry law. First, the Act provides immunity for property owners and employers who allow their employees and visitors to carry concealed weapons onto the premises. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(21). Presumably, this immunity would bar any claims against such property owners and employers based on the tortuous or negligent acts of its employees or visitors occurring within the scope of their employment or visit.
The immunity for property owners and employers, who allow their employees and visitors to carry concealed weapons on the premises, has not been challenged in courts. It remains to be seen if the courts will attempt to read-in a “good faith” requirement or other limitations into the new law, effectively limiting the immunity’s applicability.
Second, the Act also allows the property owners and employers to prohibit their employees and visitors from carrying concealed weapons onto the premises. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(15m)(1) A proper notice prohibiting concealed weapons must be placed at “a prominent place near all of the entrances” or “all probable access points.” However, an employer may not prohibit its employees, as a condition of employment, from carrying a concealed weapon in the employee’s own motor vehicle, regardless of whether that vehicle is used in the course of employment or whether the motor vehicle is driven or parked on property used by the employer. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(15m)(2)
The immunity provided by the Act does not extend to business owners or employers who prohibit concealed weapons on the premises. Presumably, it means that a property owner or an employer may be liable for failing to enforce its prohibition on concealed weapons (assuming that other elements of liability, such as foreseeability, are found). It is also unclear whether an injured employee or visitor may claim that the respective property owner or employer failed to establish a safe business environment or workplace because it prohibited concealed weapons, thereby limiting such employee’s or visitor’s right for self-defense.
In our opinion, it’s too early to determine the potential affect of the new concealed carry law on Wisconsin property owners and employers.
If a property owner or an employer decides to prohibit its employees and visitors from carrying concealed weapons onto the premises, a proper notice prohibiting concealed weapons must be placed at “a prominent place near all of the entrances” or “all probable access points.” Such property owner or employer shall enforce its prohibition on concealed weapons and any employees’ violations shall be disciplined. An employer should probably have a written policy that addresses the prohibition on concealed weapons and disciplinary actions for its violations.
For a complete codified text of the new concealed carry law see: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/175/60
Should you have any questions regarding the above-mentioned issues or other employment-related matters, please contact us today.