In 2021, there was a mass shooting at a high school in Michigan in which four students were killed. As a result of this shooting, not only was the shooter prosecuted, but the parents of the shooter were charged with criminal liability by their failure to take ordinary care to act appropriately, and are, therefore, being tried for four counts of involuntary manslaughter. The mother was recently convicted.

Other parents in the last few months have pled guilty to charges of reckless conduct or neglect in these situations. Given this pattern, it is reasonably foreseeable that employers—if such shootings take place in the workplace—may also be prosecuted or subject to stiff personal injury claims due to shootings in the workplace, if they do not follow at least the minimum standards as set out in state law regarding restrictions on weapons in the workplace.

Most states have basic restrictions regarding guns in the workplace. Some require postings to inform employees and visitors that guns are not allowed on property. Educational and healthcare employers are more likely to have such requirements. In addition, some states, like California, have Red Flag statutes that allow family members, law enforcement, or an employer to file for removal of firearms from the possession of individuals who may be unstable.

So, the question becomes, what liability does an employer have if they fail to post on their property or fail to initiate a Red Flag process, if they have knowledge of facts indicating an employee or a spouse may be unstable? In determining the answer to this question, every employer needs to raise its awareness of the relevant statutes in each state where the company operates. Husch Blackwell’s Labor & Employment team recently updated and published its Firearms in the Workplace 50-State Survey. We recommend that employers check it out and follow up with counsel wherever needed.