Effective April 12, 2022, Georgia law regarding firearms is amended to permit an individual who is not prohibited by law to possess or carry a handgun or long gun. The provision prohibiting an employer from conditioning employment on the ability to store firearms or ammunition in a personal vehicle is also amended.
An employer is prohibited from establishing or enforcing a policy or rule that allows an employer or its agents to search an employee’s locked privately owned vehicle or those of invited guests on the employer’s parking lot. These restrictions do not apply to the following:
- To searches by certified law enforcement officers pursuant to valid search warrants or valid warrantless searches based upon probable cause under exigent circumstances;
- To vehicles owned or leased by an employer;
- To any situation in which a reasonable person would believe that accessing a locked vehicle of an employee is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety; or
- When an employee consents to a search of their locked privately owned vehicle by licensed private security officers for loss prevention purposes based on probable cause that the employee unlawfully possesses employer property.
Further, an employer may not condition employment on an agreement that prohibits an employee from entering the parking lot when the employee’s personal vehicle contains a firearm or ammunition that is locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or area within the vehicle, provided that the prospective employee is a lawful weapons carrier.
However, despite the prohibitions addressed above, Georgia law does not restrict the rights of private property owners or persons in legal control of property through a lease, a rental agreement, a contract, or any other agreement to control access to such property. Further, the law states that when a private property owner or person in legal control of property is also an employer, their rights as a private property owner or person in legal control of property governs. Accordingly, employers who also have legal control of the property (e.g., property owner) seemingly have broader rights to establish and enforce policies restricting weapons on the property.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers who wish to prohibit handguns in the workplace and those who conduct workplace searches, should review their workplace violence, weapons in the workplace and/or workplace searches policy(ies) to ensure the Company’s position on handguns is not contrary to the amendments and consider including carve language where needed.
It is also recommended that employers in engage in annual workplace violence prevention training to mitigate risks related to employees having firearms on their premises and consult with their legal counsel on additional best practices as it relates to enforcement of their company policies.