Readers have made some really thoughtful and persuasive comments on my last post about the Texas bill that would force employers to allow employees to keep guns in their vehicles on company property. Persuasive to me because I do agree that it’s absolutely silly for a workplace to have a policy on guns with an aim to prevent workplace violence, but I’m afraid I still have to come out against these laws.
I think there’s a distinction to between discrimination because of someone’s race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion, which people largely are born as and have little control over, and discrimination based on specific behavior, even if that behavior is generally protected from interference by government.
It’s true that employers are preventing employees from exercising a right, but employers are generally free to do this. Employers may dictate how you dress, what time you come to work, what you may or may not say on behalf of the company, what you can or can’t say in the workplace or to customers. They may do things like forbidding you from talking about your political views with clients. They may prevent you from handing out religious leaflets, running prayer groups during business hours, etc. You could be fired for saying something negative about the CEO. These things are all ingfringing on some fundamental rights that, if we were talking governmental action, would be prohibited by the constitution.
But we’ve generally accepted that, with a few exceptions for race, gender, age, and a few other types of discrimination, that employee employer relationship are private relationships governed by rules and standards of behavior agreed to by both parties for their mutual benefit, and both parties are allowed to terminate that agreement when the benefit is no longer mutual. I accept the government meddling in this agreement, even for the case of racial discrimination, very reluctantly, and I am not inclined to accept more government interference in private relationships, especially one that comes down to a matter of behavior, and not characteristics that people are born with. I am a strong believer in the “employment at will” doctrine, where either party can terminate employment when they no longer find it beneficial.
As a believer in liberty, free from undue interference from government in private affairs, I can’t accept much in the way of restrictions placed on private relationships between employers and employees. If we can force employers to accept guns on their property, we can force them to accept speech that the company does not wish to accept, or force them to accommodate religious preferences, like cab drivers refusing to pick up fares with alcohol, or cashiers refusing to ring up pork products. I am very reluctant to accept more government interference into private relationships, even if it would benefit me personally.
I am not saying this lightly. I can assure you that no employer will ever search my car or my person. My car is my property, and I will never offer my consent for an employer to have access to it. I absolutely accept this might get me fired. It’s my right to refuse this. If my employer damages my property, he is liable. If he interferes with my person, he is liable. I have a right to refuse my employer interfering with my person or property, but he absolutely has a right to discontinue the relationship for my violation of that private covenant.
There are many things about employment I don’t like. I wish I could say whatever I want without consequence, wear my “Peace Through Superior Firepower” t-shirt in meetings with clients. I wish everyone I knew at work would be comfortable with me carrying a firearm on me, and talking about what my favorite carry guns are. But that’s not the case, and I accept I could be fired for both activities.
I don’t think government can help us out much in our private relationships with others. In that realm we’re stuck with using persuasion, and trying to educate people that gun owners, and people who lawfully carry guns for self-defense, aren’t irresponsible and dangerous whack jobs who are going to instigate workplace violence incidents. But bringing more government into the situation just opens the door to a lot of unpleasant restrictions on private behavior that I’m just not willing to accept.Â I guess when it comes to this stuff, I’m a libertarian first, and a gun owner second.Â I hope you all don’t find that too terribly disappointing.