Are your employees keeping loaded guns in their cars on company property? Under a new Florida law, you can’t ask. On July 1, the Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 went into effect. Under this law, an employer can no longer prohibit its employees from bringing loaded guns onto company property – so long as those guns remain locked in the employee’s vehicle.

Certain exceptions do apply – schools, prisons, nuclear power plants, Defense Department contractors, and business that maintain explosives – but unless your company falls into one of those categories, your employees (with valid concealed weapons permits) must now be permitted to keep firearms in their cars, and you cannot take disciplinary or retaliatory action against them for doing so. The Act also applies to “invitees” to your business premises, thereby including customers, volunteers, student interns, vendors or anyone else with a legitimate reason to park their vehicle in your parking lot.

But before you begin polling your employees to determine whether they are keeping guns in their vehicles, you should know that the new law also provides: “No public or private employer may violate the privacy rights of a customer, employee, or invitee by verbal or written inquiry regarding the presence of a firearm inside or locked to a private motor vehicle in a parking lot…”

Many employers and commentators have raised concerns about the possibility that this new law may lead to an increase in workplace violence, by making weapons more accessible to disgruntled and unstable employees or customers. Although the new law is reportedly facing several challenges in the courts, for now it is the law.

Any employee handbook that prohibits employees from bringing firearms onto company premises should be revised to make an exception for firearms that are lawfully stored in an employee’s locked vehicle.