Tennessee now recognizes a cause of action for an employee who is terminated or otherwise adversely treated in the workplace based solely upon the employee’s transporting or storing of a firearm or ammunition in the employer’s parking area. The legislation, signed on April 6, 2015, prohibits an employer from firing or taking any adverse action against an employee solely for transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the employer’s parking lot. The law will amend Tennessee Code Annotated Title 50, Chapter 1.
Present law authorizes the holder of a valid handgun carry permit recognized in Tennessee to, unless expressly prohibited by federal law, transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s motor vehicle while on or utilizing any public or private parking area if:
(1) The permit holder’s motor vehicle is parked in a location where it is permitted to be; and
(2) The firearm or ammunition being transported or stored in the motor vehicle:
(A) Is kept from ordinary observation if the permit holder is in the motor vehicle; or
(B) Is kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the person’s motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to such motor vehicle if the permit holder is not in the motor vehicle.
This new law takes the protection a step further and prohibits an employer from terminating or taking any adverse employment action against an employee solely for transporting or storing a firearm or firearm ammunition in an employer parking area in a manner consistent with the above-described present law authorization.
Under this law, an employee terminated, or disciplined in violation of this law will have a cause of action against the employer to enjoin future acts in violation of this bill and to recover economic damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs.
In any action brought pursuant to this section, the employee will have the burden of establishing a prima facie case of discharge, or adverse employment action, based solely on the employee’s transporting or storing a firearm or firearm ammunition in the employer’s parking area in a manner consistent with present law. If the employee satisfies this burden, the burden will then be on the employer to produce evidence that one or more legitimate reasons existed for the employee’s discharge or adverse employment action. If the employer produces such evidence, the presumption of discharge, or adverse employment action, raised by the employee’s prima facie case is rebutted, and the burden shifts to the employee to demonstrate that the reason given by the employer was not the true reason for the employee’s discharge, or adverse employment action, and that the stated reason was a pretext for discharge or adverse employment action.
The employee will have one year from the date of termination of employment, or the date of adverse employment action, to file an action pursuant to this law. Possession of a firearm or ammunition in a vehicle is a protected category of workplace conduct.