What Should Employers Know about Florida’s New Constitutional Carry Law?

On July 1, 2023, Florida House Bill 543 became law and authorized the concealed carry of firearms with or without a license to carry. So-called Constitutional Carry means that a permit is not required to carry a concealed firearm. There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about the new law so various law enforcement agencies published Permitless Carry – Myth versus Fact. Here are the main takeaways:

  • Open Carry is still illegal in most circumstances in Florida (traveling to and from hunting, camping, and target shooting).
  • Constitutional carry does not change who can purchase a firearm or the waiting period to purchase a firearm.
  • To carry a concealed firearm in Florida, a person must still meet the same criteria required to apply for a concealed weapon permit (at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other disqualifying conditions.
  • The new law does not change where you can carry a firearm. You can not carry a firearm anywhere that a private business or property owner has prohibited them or anywhere outlined in the FL statute 790.23.
  • Concealed weapons permits (CWPs) are still issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Under the new law, employers are prohibited from:

  1. Conditioning employment on any agreement with an employee or customer that prohibits them from keeping legal firearms locked inside a private vehicle in a parking lot for lawful purposes.
  2. Trying to prevent employees or customers from entering an employer parking lot because their private vehicle contains a legal forearm that is being carried for a lawful purpose and is out of sight within the vehicle.
  3. Discharges or discriminates against an employee or customer for exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms or exercising their right to self-defense (as long as they never exhibit a firearm on employer property for any reason other than lawful defensive purpose.
  4. Violate privacy rights of employees or customers through verbal or written inquiries regarding the presence of a firearm inside a locked private vehicle in a parking lot to determine whether a firearm is in the vehicle.
  5. Take any action against an employee based on anybody’s verbal or written statements regarding the storage of a firearm inside a private vehicle in a parking lot for lawful purposes.

Employers are also immune from lawsuits for the actions they take or do not take in order to comply with the new rules on firearms in employer parking lots (no immunity for any actions not related to the new law). The Florida Attorney General is in charge of investigating employers that violate the law and employers that violate the law may be ordered to stop, assessed damages, fined, plus attorney fees and court costs. There is also a private right of action and employees can sue their employers for personal costs and losses caused by the employer’s violations, plus attorneys’ fees and court costs.

Lastly, employers drafting a workplace violence or firearms policy for its Employee Handbook should be sure to review the new law and make sure that any firearm restrictions do not prohibit firearms that are stored in an employee’s private vehicle in the company parking lot. Employees cannot be disciplined for exercising their right to keep a lawfully obtained firearm in their personal vehicle in the parking lot.

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