Stories of mass shootings have been pervading the news. In an attempt to bolster workplace safety, some employers are considering arming managers with weapons to protect their employees in the event of a violent threat. If the manager in your workplace carried a gun, would this make you feel more or less safe?
Feelings on this possibility are divided, and the legal arguments for and against the move are more complex than you might expect.
Having armed managers in the workplace could discourage a disturbed individual from committing a violent crime. If there was a violent incident, it could give managers a way to defend themselves and their colleagues. It could stop or curtail the violent offender’s impact.
Although managers with guns would need to have the appropriate permits to own and carry a firearm, these documents do not give them the same legal rights as a law enforcement officer. Their legal immunity would therefore be comparatively limited. They would not be authorized to use force; they could only defend themselves or others. If something went wrong-e.g., they acted in a way that was not deemed defensive, or an innocent employee was hit in the crossfire-the manager could be on the hook for numerous damages associated with:
- Personal injury
- Wrongful death
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
In addition, since the employer permitted the manager to carry a firearm in the workplace, the employer could also be held liable for the manager’s conduct.
The Society for Human Resource Management recommends additional steps to enhance workplace safety. Hiring a safety consultant to assess the workplace can be beneficial in identifying such things as vulnerable points of entry. It’s also a good idea to have a comprehensive safety plan in place. Teaching employees how to recognize threats and how to respond can be extraordinarily beneficial in the event of an emergency.