On the Miss. S.Ct.’s docket for Monday, January 4, 2016 (submitted but not argued) is Robert Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation. This is a certified question from the Fifth Circuit.
Whether in Mississippi an employer may be liable for a wrongful discharge of an employee for storing a firearm in a locked vehicle on company property in a manner that is consistent with Section 45-9-55.
Robert Swindol worked for Aurora Flight Sciences in Lowndes County. On May 31, 2013, his employer learned he had a firearm in his locked car in the parking lot and fired him. He sued for wrongful discharge and defamation.
The district court dismissed Swindol’s wrongful discharge and defamation claims under FRCP 12(b)(6) holding that Mississippi’s employment-at-will doctrine barred the wrongful discharge claim and that falsity had not been adequately alleged for the defamation claim. The Fifth Circuit, noting that the “wrongful discharge claim presents an important and determinative question of state law that has not been addressed by Mississippi courts” has certified the issue asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to tell them what Mississippi law is.
Mississippi Code § 45-9-55 provides,
(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (2) of this section, a public or private employer may not establish, maintain, or enforce any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting a person from transporting or storing a firearm in a locked vehicle in any parking lot, parking garage, or other designated parking area.
(2) A private employer may prohibit an employee from transporting or storing a firearm in a vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees to which access is restricted or limited through the use of a gate, security station or other means of restricting or limiting general public access onto the property.
(3) This section shall not apply to vehicles owned or leased by an employer and used by the employee in the course of his business.
(4) This section does not authorize a person to transport or store a firearm on any premises where the possession of a firearm is prohibited by state or federal law.
(5) A public or private employer shall not be liable in a civil action for damages resulting from or arising out of an occurrence involving the transportation, storage, possession or use of a firearm covered by this section.
The Fifth Circuit’s Order.
The National Rifle Association has asked for permission to file this amicus brief on the issue.
The Mississippi Supreme Court could always decline the Fifth Circuit’s request but let’s hope they don’t and settle the issue.