Labor: New Illinois law requires employer action to keep workplaces gun-free

On July 9, Illinois become the last state to allow the concealed carry of firearms

Recent Illinois gun legislation means employers will shortly confront a new, potentially troublesome workplace issue: concealed firearms.

On July 9, Illinois lawmakers voted to override Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of House Bill 183, thus making Illinois the last state in the nation to allow the concealed carry of firearms. The law’s passage comes in the wake of last year’s 7th Circuit ruling that Illinois’ ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional. The General Assembly’s vote occurred just in the nick of time, since the 7th Circuit gave Illinois lawmakers until July 9 to revise its concealed carry law. 

The bill reflects a compromise between both sides of the heated gun control debate that has stirred controversy throughout the state for years. Though certainly a victory for pro-firearm advocates, the legislation includes a host of limitations for those wanting to carry concealed firearms. Applicants seeking a concealed carry license must complete 16 hours of training, cannot have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor or any felony, and are subject to thorough mental health and background checks. Also, many places are off-limits to those carrying firearms, including schools, hospitals, public transportation and sports arenas.

Of most concern to employers, though, are the provisions pertaining to private property owners. The bill leaves it to the discretion of property owners whether to permit or prohibit the concealed carry of firearms on their premises. For those who wish to prohibit firearms on their property, the bill mandates that owners post a sign “clearly and conspicuously” at the entrance of their building or property. The sign will be standardized according to state police guidelines, which have yet to be issued, though the bill specifies that the sign shall be four by six inches.

Still, even if property owners prohibit concealed carry and comply with the sign-posting requirements, licensees may still lawfully store their firearms in their vehicles while parked on the premises. The bill, however, mandates that licensees keep their firearms out of plain view and that they keep their car locked. Also, the bill provides a caveat that allows concealed carry in the “immediate area surrounding” the licensee’s vehicle for the purpose of storing and retrieving a firearm from the vehicle’s trunk, provided the gun is unloaded.

There remains uncertainty for those employers who operate on leased premises. The bill is unclear on whether “owner” encompasses lessees and those running business on leased property. However, it is expected that once the state police department issues regulations regarding the signage requirements, which is to occur within the next six months, the ambiguity will be resolved.

For employers, the new concealed carry law is important in at least three respects. First, it leaves it entirely up to employers, as property owners, whether to allow or prohibit the concealed carry of firearms in their workplaces. Second, if employers want to keep their premises gun-free, they must post signs to that effect “clearly and conspicuously” around the entrances to their properties. Third, employers must be aware that even if they do prohibit firearms and comply with the law’s sign requirements, guns may still be lawfully on their property if locked, and out of plain sight, inside a vehicle. Ultimately, it is up to employers to take affirmative steps if they want their workplaces to remain gun-free.

Contributing Author

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John Kuenstler

John F. Kuenstler is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a member of the Labor and Employment Department. Mr....

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