December 11, 2004

Workplace Violence v. Workplace Defense

This is interesting. Not just because of the subject matter, but because it's an unusually balanced piece for the mainstream media. There are a few things that should be brought out & discussed more in depth.

It starts off recounting the tale of Ronald Honeycutt:

"Ronald Honeycutt didn't hesitate. The Pizza Hut driver had just finished dropping off a delivery when a man holding a gun approached him.
Honeycutt wasn't about to become another robbery statistic. He grabbed the 9 mm handgun he always carries in his belt and shot the man more than 10 times, killing him.
Honeycutt faced no criminal charges, because prosecutors decided that he acted in self-defense. But the 39-year-old did lose his job: Carrying a gun violated Pizza Hut's no-weapons rule.
'It's not fair,' says Honeycutt of Carmel, Ind., who has found another pizza-delivery job and continues to carry a gun. 'There is a constitutional right to bear arms. If I'm going to die, I'd rather be killed defending myself."

Needless to say I haven't spent a dime at Pizza Hut or any other chain (such as Papa John's or Domino's) because of their corporate policy concerning security. I am glad Mr. Honeycutt was able to find other employment, it's just a shame he was fired for defending himself.

"Employers have long banned guns from the workplace as part of a violence-prevention strategy, but those policies are being tested as states pass laws making it easier for residents to carry concealed guns - in some cases, crafting legislation that strikes down employers' attempts to keep guns off company property.

That means employers, who have traditionally shied away from such politically charged issues as gun control, are filing lawsuits to preserve their no-guns-allowed rules. Gun owners are also fighting back, boycotting companies that ban guns or fire workers for having them."

Now perhaps I'm just unaware, but I would have thought that workplace bans on firearms were a relatively new thing - say within the past 10 to 15 years.

As for the "violence prevention" policies being tested because of concealed carry laws; I would have thought that they were tested with every violent crime committed in the workplace or against an employee. I'd have also thought they failed miserably.

But big business hasn't typically shied away form gun control. Somewhere on the net there's a nice long list of companies that donate to various gun control groups. There's also a list of companies that donate to pro-gun groups. Sadly the former is more numerous than the latter. But I don't think as a whole one could say employers shy away form gun control issues, since so many big companies seem to be supportive of gun control.

& yes, gun owners are boycotting certain places. It'd be damned impossible to boycott every company that supports gun control or restricts self defense, but the more prominent ones are seeing a drop in revenue. How big a drop? That's hard to say, but I'd assume it's noticable. However I'd also assume that the drop is attributed to other things than pissing off gun owners.

"Are we promoting open firefights in the parking lot?' says Paul Viollis, president of Risk Control Strategies in New York. 'For legislation to permit employees and contractors to bring loaded firearms to work in vehicles is blatantly irresponsible."

"...promoting open firefights..."? Good Lord, why can't we hear from someone who didn't get their knowledge of firearms related issues from watching Schwarzenegger movies (remember the ones where he used the guns he’d like to see banned)? You cannot promote a firefight simply by not preventing someone from being armed. What you can do is promote a slaughter of your employees by denying them the means for defense.

The opening line & the subsequent illogic behind it stems from the idea that otherwise peaceable folks start going on shooting sprees if they get upset & there's a gun nearby. In effect this is saying that they think their employees are all on the verge of becoming homicidal maniacs. They only lack the equipment, not the lack of morals or ability. If we assume this is true then who the hell is in charge of hiring these people? when you see "Chuck Manson" on the application doesn't it make you think that maybe the position didn't need to be filled after all? But apparently Mr. Violis believes that all Pizza Hut employees are of the same moral caliber as Mr. Manson. Either it's true in which case I wouldn't be eating the food there at all or Mr. Violis is lying through ignorance or malice about the situation. My bet is on the latter.

What is blatantly irresponsible is Pizza Hut's security policy. I used to work for that particular company & I became very familiar with it. In essence if you are robbed, either in the store or outside the store while on the clock, you must comply with any demands made of you by the robber. Also you are verboten from having any weapons of any kind, including pocket knives & pepper spray. Using them would be unthinkable to the folks at corporate.

Let me explain this a little more bluntly: if you're approached by a robber you will be unarmed per company policy & if said robber demands that you give him oral sex you could be fired for not complying with his demands. In theory if he tells you to impale yourself with a sharp stick & you do not do so you could lose your job. Now I'll grant that most managers have a little more sense than to enforce company policy to its extreme, but move up the chain of command & the level of common sense decreases dramatically. In any event if you refuse any demand by a robber or you fight back with or without weapons you will not have a job with Pizza Hut. That's blatantly irresponsible.

"In 35 states, practically any non-felon can obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Those states require law enforcement officials to issue a license to carry a concealed weapon unless the person is in a prohibited category (generally, a convicted felon). Employers can still generally ban guns inside the workplace as long as they post signs or take other clear steps stating that no weapons are allowed, legal experts say, but some legislators are calling for new laws that would take that ability away."

Great. They're getting their facts on gun laws from the Brady Bunch. That's like asking Charles Manson to explain the laws on multiple homicide.

It's not just felons though; it's anyone who is convicted of a crime which the maximum sentence is over two years or over one year (depending upon the circumstances). Get convicted & spend 1 day in jail you're treated the same as if you had to serve 2+ years. Also domestic violence misdemeanors will disqualify you, as will a known addiction to drugs, or a revocation of your U.S. citizenship. Those are federal laws concerning possession of firearms. State & local laws may or may not be as strict. But in general every state has those federal laws incorporated into their concealed carry laws, even Vermont & Alaska.

"The ability of companies to ban guns in their parking lots is coming under strong attack. In Oklahoma, a number of employers, including ConocoPhillips, are trying to overturn a law that allows employees to keep guns in locked vehicles on company property. The law was supposed to go into effect Nov. 1, but enforcement has been blocked as legal wrangling over the bill continues.

Gun-owner groups say employers who ban guns are stripping away workers' right to defend themselves on the job. Roughly 76% of all workplace homicides are robbery related, compared with 7% in the general population, according to an unpublished 2003 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)."

& the gun owners groups (hey - it least it wasn't the dreaded "gun lobby") are correct: the companies that prohibit firearms even in vehicles are intruding on a person's ability for defense. But it's a bit more complex than that & I'll try to cover it at the end of this article.

"Having a gun is what Terry Pickle believes saved his life. In 2001, the owner of Pickle's Pawn Shop in Salt Lake City, was at work when two intruders broke in. They didn't ask questions or demand money. They simply walked in and opened fire.
But Pickle and his son, David, grabbed the loaded guns they carry and fired back, injuring one. The intruders fled, firing at a customer as they left. Pickle says he now knows firsthand that guns on the job can deter crime and keep employees safe. The two men were later caught and sentenced to prison, with one serving 10 years and the other serving 71/2 years.
'It saved our lives,' Pickle says. 'We would have been shot, probably dead, had we not had the ability to protect ourselves. They came in shooting. No words, nothing."

Course incidents like this don't get nearly the amount of coverage as say a workplace shooting where an employee or ex-employee starts murdering people. So it's not unrealistic for people to think this is an exception rather than the rule when guns are in a place of employment. I'd wager that more people stop or deter crimes with firearms during the course of their business than use them for harmful purposes. Also another benefit is that once a person uses a firearm to drive off, wound, kill or apprehend a robber that place & the places close by are going to be safe for some time. Criminals don't typically try to rob places where their intended victims are capable of & willing to shoot back. This is not an absolute rule, but it's true more often than not.

"But others say laws that now allow guns in parking lots infringe on employers' property rights - endangering all employees and creating a situation in which a potentially violent worker who gets upset could have easy access to a firearm."

These "others" are partially correct; such a law does impede on an employer’s property Rights. (More on that in a bit.) But what they get stone cold wrong is the reasoning behind such gun prohibitions. Employees are not universally endangered by being allowed to carry arms. As for "...creating a situation in which a potentially violent worker who gets upset could have easy access to a firearm..." it's nonsensical. If an employee is that close to the edge, then a firearm will either be in his possession despite company policy, or he'll find some other implement to use.

What inevitably occurs whenever such a statement is made to counter the reasoning behind a gun prohibition is that if an employee who goes off his rocker has a gun he can kill more people before he's stopped. What they fail to realize is that in most companies the employee who are being killed will do one of two things; run or hide. There usually won't be two or three large employees who rush the homicidal maniac & take him down. That applies if he has a gun or a knife or a really big stick. So the idea that a knife would be less deadly than a gun is not necessarily accurate in this situation.

In any event we're still left with the idea that employees are so near a mental & moral collapse that the mere presence of a deadly object will turn them into homicidal maniacs. If that's true then it's the hiring policy, not the weapons policy that needs to be examined. If it's not true then the justification for such bans loses some steam.

Course they don't seem to consider the endangerment caused by having defenseless employees. If a handful of people are armed in a company, then A: that's a deterrent to anyone who thinks about walking in & shooting the place up & B: if someone attempts to shoot the place up you have at least a few people right there who can try to take the murderous bastard out rather than wait 5 to 20 minutes for the cops to get there & determine they need more cops (another 5 to 10 minutes).

"In 2003, Doug Williams, an employee at a Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Miss., left the building, retrieved a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle from his truck and returned, shooting 14 workers and killing six. The company bans guns on company property, but acquaintances said in news reports that Williams carried guns in his truck for target practice."

< sarcasm > Wait, if the company banned guns on company property then how did this murderous bastard get guns on the company property? Surely a person intent on violating a criminal law (murder) wouldn't go so far as to violate company policy, would he? < / sarcasm >

I wonder how many employees in Mississippi would have been packing if Lockheed Martin didn't prohibit carry inside the workplace? This example doesn't bolster the case for prohibiting weapons inside the workplace. There was already such a policy in place. What it does do is show how ineffective such policies are at disarming people with harmful intent.

"Impulse attacks, some employers say, is a major reason for banning guns on company property. In an average week in U.S. workplaces, one employee is killed and at least 25 are seriously injured in violent assaults by current or former co-workers, according to Department of Labor data. Most of those attacks involve guns."

A lot of employers say that "impulse attacks" are the main reason they prohibit arms in the workplace. A lot of employers lie. So called "impulse attacks" would have to be a lot more prevalent for it to be sufficient justification for such policies. What "impulse attacks" do is provide an easy & convenient excuse to justify such policies that are enacted for an entirely different reason: reducing company liability.

What most companies fear more than losing a dozen or so employees a year is being sued because one of their employees shot someone. Now if the employee acted in a criminal fashion contrary to company policy the company is usually off the hook in most states. But if an employee acted in compliance with the law & company policy didn't prohibit his actions then a company can be sued.

To make that clear, if Joe D. Employee walks in & starts shooting up his co-workers, the employer cannot be sued since Joe Employee committed a criminal act (well unless there was extreme negligence on the part of the company, like providing him with the gun & ammo). But if Joe Employee shoots a robber that's pointing a gun at him or one of his co-workers, then said robber’s family (we hope Joe would be a good shot & use an effective projectile in this case) could sue Joe & his employer for the wrongful death of their robbing, murderous relative.

Do not believe that any employer enacts a weapons prohibition by employees for any other reason other than limiting liability. I don't doubt that some lower & possibly even middle management people think that's why their bosses are banning weapons in the workplace, but the truth is it's all about cash. It’s much easier to pay off a dead employee's family than to fight a wrongful death suit brought by a robber.

"Do you want your mail guy or delivery guy carrying a loaded gun when he comes to the door?' asks Patty Sullivan, a Pizza Hut spokeswoman. 'What if he's not happy with his tip?"

Humanoid please. If the delivery drivers are that unstable how the hell can you trust them to drive through residential neighborhoods with a 4,000 pound battering ram under a time limit? Again, either Pizza Hut needs to have a serious overhaul in it's Personal (I believe Human Resources is the politically correct term used currently) Department or this lady is simply trying to use a lie to generate emotional support & sympathy for her view with the general public.

She wants you, as a customer, to be frightened of the idea of a delivery driver carrying a gun to your door. That way if all else fails she can say the customers are frightened of the idea of driver's packing. She won't dare mention that she & others like her wanted & encouraged customers to be frightened of driver's packing. She'll just use whatever means she can to accomplish her goal - preventing employees from carrying to reduce company liability suits brought on by injured robbers or the relatives of dead robbers.

Just as an aside when I was delivering I always carried & never thought about shooting someone because of an inadequate or non existent tip. Company hiring standards couldn't have fallen so low since I was there, could they?

"Sullivan says the company takes a number of steps to help ensure drivers' safety, including confirmation calls to new customers who place an order, limiting delivery hours in high-crime neighborhoods and training drivers never to go inside a home."

Bullshit. The steps they take are to have the employees sign a compliance with all robbers statement as well as one that says you'll be a good little unarmed & defenseless employee. Most decent managers give a quick lecture on avoiding suspicious deliveries & not entering homes, but I'd hardly call that extensive training. & let's be honest here; say you just took 5 deliveries in an hour & a half. You got a little over a buck per delivery in tips (which would have been more had not the person who gave you two twenty dollar bills for a $39.98 order told you to keep the change & closed the door in your face) & this next delivery is an old lady in her 80's. Even if you aren't a nice person you're gonna walk in the house & put the pizza where she asks you to in the hopes she'll tip. There's no "extensive training" given to explain why you shouldn't do that or when it might be permissible to do it.

as for limiting delivery hours in high crime neighborhoods - that's funny. I was delivering on a bad side of Charlotte, NC. We had drivers robbed, beat up, cars stolen & damaged - you name it. Everything short of fatalities. Did we stop delivering? Nope. Know why? Cause as bad as some neighborhoods were, we knew that not all people in those neighborhoods were bad. So we didn't deny them our service. We just made a few adjustments. The manager couldn't ask who was packing & who wasn't since it was against company policy, but he mentioned something to the effect of no one should ever go into a certain area without a gun & a lack of common sense, & then ask who wanted to take a delivery there. But stop delivering in a bad neighborhood? I'd heard some stores did that, but I don't recall mine ever doing so. Course when the driver's are packing & word about it gets around the bad neighborhoods aren't so bad.

But if Ms. Sullivan is so prejudiced against gun owners that she wouldn't feel comfortable having a pizza or anything else delivered to her by one, then she doesn't deserve to have food delivered. If her "not feeling good" about my possessing a weapon over rides her employee's Right to self defense, then I hope she feels very very bad forever.

"But as more states pass laws allowing residents to carry concealed guns, employers who haven't taken a stand regarding guns on the job are being forced to choose sides."

No. No one is being 'forced" to choose sides. If a company wants a prohibition of weapons carry by its employees that's the company’s decision. It could just as easily not have any policy on it what so ever. The only one's being forced to do anything are employees who become subject to such disarmament policies.

"An Ohio law that went into effect in April in most cases allows employees to have concealed guns on company property except where explicitly banned by employers. If employers don't ban weapons, employees can bring guns onto the work site without informing their bosses."

That's the way it was prior to the Ohio concealed carry law, the only difference being that the carry was either open or "illegal". This is not a new law that says carry is okay unless otherwise prohibited on another's property. As far as I now that's the way it's always been in Ohio with a few exceptions (such as laws prohibiting any sort of carry in bars & such).

"Employers have updated policies. Others have said, 'We don't want to raise the issue.' Businesses feel pressure from groups threatening boycotts (if they ban guns),' says Jackie Ford, an employment lawyer in Columbus."

& that's a good thing. Instead of using government, gun owners are using consumer power to effect change. A free market solution is usually preferable to a government one.

"At Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, the law has brought discussion and debate.
'What if a plumber or truck delivery guy or Coke machine guy has a gun with them?' says Howard Korn, campus police chief. 'The law is still being worked through. There's been a lot of discussion about this."

What if that plumber with a gun stops someone from raping someone else on campus? What if the Coke machine guy uses his gun to stop a school shooting?

Mr. Korn seems uncomfy with the idea of common workers packing. Yet despite whatever good intentions he or his crew may have, the odds of them being able to stop all crimes on campus are slim. It'd be much better to have people armed & capable of defending themselves & others rather than relying on campus security.

"And in Minnesota, a 2003 law generally allows employers to ban guns from their buildings if they post signs and inform visitors of the ban, but they can't restrict employees with permits from having firearms in their cars in the parking lot. The law is currently not in effect because a judge in July declared it unconstitutional; an appeal is pending. Many companies have responded by posting no-guns-allowed signs.
'Employers don't want guns on their property. The concern is for the hothead employee who has an altercation and heads out to their vehicle, and they have a gun there,' says Mary Krakow, an employment lawyer at Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis."

Sounds like some businesses in Minnesota are doing so well they want to alienate a portion of their customers. Again if they're that worried about employees snapping heir problem isn't having weapons on the property, but unstable employees.

"So far, some state courts are siding with employers who want to keep guns away.
At an America Online call center in Ogden, Utah, a security camera recorded three employees transferring guns from their cars. They were parked in a strip mall parking lot that included parking for AOL employees, lawyers say. The employees were off work and planned to go target shooting.
All three were fired by AOL for violating a workplace-violence-prevention policy that banned guns. The three fired workers sued, saying the policy violated their right to bear arms. Utah allows residents with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in a public place; you don't need a permit if it's not concealed.
But the Utah Supreme Court in July sided with AOL and said employers have the right to set policies banning guns in the workplace."

I hope this reminds you of where to spend your dollars at. Or rather where not to spend your dollars at. Here’s a visual aid courtesy of A.F. Branco:

"Even as employers wage legal battles to ban guns, some state legislators say companies should have less control. They support legislation that would allow employees with proper gun permits to carry concealed weapons on the job, not just into the parking lot.
'Companies are prohibiting the rights of employees to protect themselves,' Democratic Oklahoma state Sen. Frank Shurden says. 'I am in favor of letting a licensed permit holder carry the gun in the workplace. There's no reason to fear law-abiding citizens."

I'll get into Ok. Sen. Shurden's solution in a minute, but he is right: there is no reason to fear a person with no harmful intent even if they have a gun.

"Gun-owner groups say the real risk is that workers unable to have guns could be attacked and have no means of self-defense."

Ayup. It's especially bad when a person is killed that would have been armed & capable of defense except for some prohibition on carrying imposed by an employer or business owner or government.

"About two-thirds of employers have written policies that specifically address weapons in the workplace, the reporting of violent incidents and threats of violence or violent acts, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Large employers are more likely to have such policies."

Of course larger employers are more likely to have such policies, such larger companies have more to fear from wrongful death lawsuits filed by the family of criminals.

"Gun advocates also are pushing for laws that would make employers who ban guns liable if workers are injured in an attack on company property. 'We're fighting back,' says Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Wash. 'Employers have rights. But if you don't allow an employee the means to protect themselves in the parking lot, there can be liability for the company."

More on this in a minute.

'Employees such as Robert Wisniewski agree. The 53-year-old nurse in Brandon, Fla., says he started carrying a gun in his car after he was the victim of an attempted carjacking when driving home from work.
But he stopped carrying the gun, he said, because he works at a veterans' hospital where weapons aren't allowed in the parking lot.
'When I go to work and hit that parking lot, I have to go unarmed, even though my state says I have the right to have a gun,' says Wisniewski, who is also a firearms instructor. 'I'm not one of those gun nuts, but you should have a right to defend yourself."

Auer contraire Mr. Wisniewski, you are one of us "gun nuts". YA see, you're saying you have a Right to a firearm. Like it or not that lumps you in with the rest of us. But despite your insulting tone towards your fellow gun nuts we'll defend you & your Rights just like we defend the Rights of those who would take them away. We either all have them or none of us have them.

But it is wrong to be prohibited from having the means of defense. & I hope you feel especially insulted because they not only think you're one of us "gun nuts", but that if you're armed you'll lose all moral discretion & start killing people randomly.

Now what you've all been waiting for: I'm against laws that require employers to allow guns on their property. Why? Well it's their property. They can ban anything or nothing on it as far as I'm concerned. The government, be it state local or federal has no authority to tell them what they can & cannot have on their own property. Want to ban guns on your property? That's your business. Want to ban black people or white people from your property? Again that's your business. Want to ban or require smoking on your property? Your call. Government is wrong when it intervenes in a matter that involves your property & what you allow or don't allow on it.

But it's foolish for anyone to ban guns from their property. A person who intends to do harm won't heed the ban just like he won't heed laws against assault or murder. People who didn't intend harm will heed the ban & won't be able to defend themselves or you.

So what to do? Pass laws stating that anyone who bans employees or customers from possessing arms on their property are strictly liable for any criminal actions brought on by someone else that result in distress or injury. In other words set the law up to make it easier for injured employees or customers or the relatives of deceased employees or customers to sue the hell out of any company that denied its employees & customers the means of defense. An employer will either stop prohibiting weapons possession on company property or he'll spend a lot of money on private security to try to shore up the odds of stopping a criminal before any harm is done.

Another thing to do is pass a law requiring safe storage facilities for any property owner who prohibits weapons on their property but has no nearby public parking facilities. In other words a way for employees to have the means of defense to & from work while not having access to it on the job. It's not a perfect solution, but again I'd hope the expense of maintaining such a storage area would cause a company to revise its policy & not prohibit carry at all.

& a note about delivery drivers: most that I knew carried only in their cars. they didn't usually carry into the stores & rarely carried onto anyone else's property. Pizza Hut & other such companies prohibit all carry when on their clock. That means even if a driver parked off the company's property & left the gun in the car they could still be fired if found out. Does the company have the power to do that? Yep. Should they do it? Nope. Again they're not worried about workplace violence - they're worried about avoiding lawsuits brought on behalf of criminals injured by employees acting in self defense.

A few years back th e morning crew of an Arizona Pizza Hut walked in to find the night crew in the cooler. All were dead. The families of the night crew sued the maker of the gun used by the criminals to kill their loved ones. I forget if they lost or if it was settled out of court, but they missed an opportunity to rake up a fortune. They could have, & should have sued Pizza Hut, since Pizza Hut's "no weapons" & "comply with the robbers at all costs" policy was much more responsible than the gun maker for the employee's deaths. But the family (or the family's lawyers) didn't see pursuing that strategy as desirable as suing an "evil gun maker".

So what my solution would be is to pass laws highlighting the liability of any company that prohibits employees or customers possession of weapon. In addition I'd ask any self respecting gun owner to stop throwing their cash to companies that prohibit self defense. Combined those two things could do much to accomplish our goals (not being denied the means of defense) without the unpleasant side effects of direct government involvement.

As it stands now, some companies such as Pizza Hut & Papa John's & AOL forbid their employees from carrying the means of defense. Do not spend money with those companies until they change their policy & please inform them of what you're doing & why. If they see enough of a loss in their bottom line they may reconsider. Or some other company will see a market for your dollars & compete with them for it. But even if neither works I'd say it's better to spend money elsewhere than give it to people who disregard thier employee's &/or customer's Right to self defense.

I will say that this is one of the more balanced pieces I've seen on any gun issue. More could have been said, but all in all it was damned closed to fair. For that many many thanks to Stephanie Armour of USA Today.

Posted by Publicola at December 11, 2004 06:28 AM
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