Federal Court Upholds Oklahoma Workers’ Right to Guns in Cars

February 20, 2009

A federal appeals court has ruled that Oklahoma’s law protecting employees’ rights to have a guns in their locked vehicles at work is constitutional.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to overturn a Tulsa federal judge’s 2007 court order preventing enforcement of the law.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision,” said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. “It was our opinion that the law is constitutional, and the court agreed with us today.”

The appellate panel ruled that U.S. District Judge Terence Kern erred in deciding that Oklahoma’s law – passed in two stages in 2004 and 2005 – was pre-empted by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The judges ruled that the law did not conflict with any OSHA standard.

“We disagree,” the judges wrote in a 23-page decision. “OSHA is aware of the controversy surrounding firearms in the workplace and has consciously decided not to adopt a standard” banning firearms from the workplace.

The impetus for the law came from Federal Way, Wash.-based Weyerhaeuser Corp.’s decision to fire eight workers because they had guns in their vehicles at a southeastern Oklahoma timber mill.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. and Houston-based ConocoPhillips challenged the law more recently.

ConocoPhillips spokesman Rich Johnson said that “the safety of our employees is a top priority of ConocoPhillips, and we are disappointed with today’s decision.” ConocoPhillips, a plaintiff in the case, has a refinery in Ponca City.

Johnson said the company has not had time to determine what its next step will be.

The appellate court also rejected claims by ConocoPhillips and its fellow plaintiffs that the law violated their constitutional due-process right to exclude people from company property and that the law constituted a “taking” of their property.

Information from: Tulsa World, www.tulsaworld.com

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