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Employers Cannot Take Adverse Employment Actions Against Employees for Transporting or Storing Firearms in Employer Parking Area in Tennessee

Posted on Aug 16 2015 8:41PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The 2015 Tennessee Legislature passed a new law found in Public Chapter No. 80 that provides protections to employees who keep firearms in their vehicle in employer provided parking areas.  This law created a new code section found at T.C.A. § 50-1-312.  Basically, this law provides that employers cannot take adverse employment actions against employees solely for transporting or storing a firearm or firearm ammunition in an employer parking area.  If an employee is discharged or subjected to an adverse employment action in violation of this law, then the employee will have a cause of action against the employer to recover damages as well as attorney’s fees and costs. 

 

Interestingly, the employee has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case that the adverse employment action was based solely on the transporting or storing of a firearm or firearm ammunition in the employer’s parking area.  Once the employee establishes this fact, the burden shifts to the employer to prove there was one or more legitimate other reasons that existed for the employee’s discharge or adverse employment action.  The statute of limitations for bringing a cause of action under this statute is one year from the date of termination or the date of the adverse employment action. 

 

The key sections of this new statute are as follows:

 

(b)(1)(A) No employer shall discharge or take 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§ 39-17-1313(a).

(B) An employee discharged, or subject to an adverse employment action, in violation of subdivision (b)(1)(A) shall have a cause of action against the employer to enjoin future acts in violation of this section and to recover economic damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs.

…………

(2) In any action brought pursuant to this section, the employee shall 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 § 39-17-1313(a). If the employee satisfies this burden, the burden shall then be on the employer to produce evidence that one (1) or more legitimate reasons existed for the employee's discharge or adverse employment action. The burden on the employer is one of production and not persuasion. 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 allocations of burdens of proof set out in this subdivision (b)(2) shall apply at all stages of the proceedings, including motions for summary judgment. The employee at all times retains the burden of persuading the trier of fact that the employee has been the victim of discharge, or adverse employment action, based solely on the employee's adherence with§ 39-17-1313(a).

 

I think the circumstances where this statute will actually be applied will be very limited.  This is mainly because the employee is required to establish that the sole basis for the adverse employment action was the firearms in the parking lot.  That is a difficult burden.  This statute received a lot of press attention and it was discussed as being somewhat controversial.  I expect this law will actually be applied in only a small handful of cases in Tennessee each year.  Regardless, this law is now the law in Tennessee and it went into effect on July 1, 2015 for all employment terminations or adverse employment actions that occur on or after that date.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: 2015 Tennessee Legislation, Employment Law
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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