Tim Sackett’s HR 101: What Do You Do If an Employee is Carrying a Gun?

Okay, HR fans, here’s the game — I give you a real-life HR scenario and you tell me how you would handle it if your were the HR person in charge of handling it.

Got it!? Here’s the issue:

You’re a Regional HR Manager of a major chain of pizza restaurants. Most of your business is home delivery. This means you primarily have location managers, pizza cooks, and drivers.

It’s a random Tuesday in the Detroit metro area, and one of your drivers leaves on a delivery to local address. When the driver arrives at the address and goes to the door, there are two armed men there to rob him of his $37 and change, and of course, the pizza.

Your driver in Detroit shoots a would-be robber

Unbeknownst to the would-be robbers (and you), your driver grew up on the streets of Detroit and he is legally carrying a concealed weapon of his own (gotta love the D!). He decides he’s not giving up his $37 or his pizza without payment, and he gets off three (3) shots into one of the would be robbers and takes off.

Your driver didn’t get hurt and didn’t get robbed, but he also didn’t deliver that pizza!

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

The robber who was shot is discovered by police at a nearby hospital and booked; the other robber has yet to be found. (By the way – this is from an actual story in Detroit this month!) You get a call from one of your District Managers who wants to know what she should do with your driver, who is looking to return to work. After all, he’s got a family to feed.

Now, what do you do Mrs. or Mr. Regional HR Manager of Jet’s Pizza?

(By the way, Jet’s is a very good pizza place. Also, here’s a little known Michigan fact for those who don’t live in Michigan – for some reason Michigan is the large pizza chain capital of the world with both Little Caesars and Domino’s founded and headquartered in Michigan. No one knows why.)

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What would YOU do with this employee?

Classic HR theory would have us look at our policies and past practices. What? You mean you might have had this happen before?! It’s Detroit, it might have happened earlier that evening.

Wait, you have a policy against your employees shooting your customers? Again, it’s Detroit; the policy might actually spell out when it’s all right to shoot customers.

Regardless, something will happen to this young man. Will you fire him, do nothing, set him up with EAP, reward him so other employees do the same, etc.?

Hit me in the comments and let me know what action you would take if this was your HR shop. I’ll follow later with what action I would take

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


12 Comments on “Tim Sackett’s HR 101: What Do You Do If an Employee is Carrying a Gun?

  1. Wow. Tough call, Tim. Given the facts that he was legally carrying, he’s in a high-risk job (and it appears, a high-risk location), and alone. I might be inclined to allow him back to work. I’d find it difficult to tell an employee he was wrong to be carrying and wrong to defend himself in such circumstances. This is much different than someone carrying a weapon on premises with no elevated risk.

    1. Danna –

      Thanks for the comments – this is one of the tougher HR things I’ve seen recently! It really could go either way. As an HR person I could support keeping this person, and I could support having to term this person. Really depends on your corporate culture, past practice and policies – all those things we do! I guess there’s a reason we have an HR department!


  2. I’ll echo Danna’s wow. Hmmm … if you allow an employee to carry a weapon, are you obligated to make sure he’s received training in using it? Does he now get a thorough background check to make sure you have a defense against a negligent hiring/negligent retention claim? What if you say no to the weapon, and the delivery guy is injured during the next hold up?

    Before making a decision, I’d need to know some stats. How vulnerable are these pizza delivery people? If the stats proof this is a high-risk profession, the company has an obligation to provide some protection.

    Then again, aren’t these guys independent contractors? My head hurts.

    1. Hey Crystal! Talk about a HR nightmare…if this was my call, irregardless of stats, I would probably move to terminate the employee. Albeit with some form of severance or bonus or whatever you may call it.

      As a disclaimer, I am totally pro 2nd amendment, and honestly believe that people should carry (at their discretion) for protection. I have my CCP and always carry (when I’m not at work). I also make it a habit of getting to the range as often as I can to make sure I stay proficient with handling my firearm. I honestly believe this guy did a great job in defending himself and not hurting any innocent bystanders in the process. While this particular person did well in the use of his firearm during this particular situation, what goes to say that the next guy will do equally as well in a similar situation?

      Guns in the workplace just opens up the employer to too much liability. While I’m all for civilians arming themselves, the reality is that your average person isn’t prepared to deal with a situation once the sh*t hits the fan. A firearm in the hands of someone who is not proficient with the weapon can cause irreparable harm to innocent bystanders. Would the employer be liable for that? Chances are yes.

      For an employer to allow their employees to carry in situations such as the one’s described in Tim’s post without proper AND ongoing training is reckless (although by the sound of it…seems like Detroit offers plenty of opportunities to gain weapons proficiency). If it hasn’t been already done, I would probably develop a policy to ensure that the workplace is a gun-free zone (as much as it pains me to say that).


      1. Ernie – great comments!

        I do think this has big precedent issues – the last think I want is all my drivers carrying guns, but at the same time, I want my employees to be safe. I think I would tend to have a no gun policy, and train them on how to give up everything they have and we’ll replace. If you get held up – give them the pizza, the money, your car, your phone – just keep yourself safe.


  3. As the employee is holding the gun legally & considering the situation, i would have temporarily suspended the employee till the court decision is announced on this event. And based on that i would take next course of action.

  4. Great topic as CCW has been and will be a reoccurring factor in the future. I am a 2nd Amendment proponent and have had the CCW training. That being said I’d have two questions about the scenario:
    1). Is the store a gun free zone (or did the driver only carry in his vehicle)?
    2). Did the driver have an opportunity to leave the scene without drawing his weapon?
    The news story states the driver was suspicious and actually called the Jet’s and said it looked so. He still attempted delivery. That was probably the decision that precipitated the event. My training says he should have left immediately.
    I would tend to error on the side of caution and have a policy that states employees cannot carry while working on the premises or while out on delivery. I also would limit the amount of cash they have in their possession at any time (enough to make change).
    The liability outweighs the protective aspect of CCW in this case as the company could be seen as responsible for injuries to the employee, innocent
    bystanders and assailants. Litigation would not need to come to a conclusion as even a settlement would cost the company money.
    I would reprimand the employee and perhaps terminate if a policy was already in place but certainly put a policy in place that protects the employee and company providing guideline where drivers could elect not to deliver as well as stating that carrying a weapon, even legally, is not allowed on company time or property.

  5. Questions like this make me glad I do HR in Canada. This would be a pretty clear cut situation up here, but I can definitely see why this might be a going concern in the US. I would think that between liability and the potential for disastrous consequence, I would have to let the employee go (with much regret, and maybe with a quiet re-hire in the near future). The likelihood of an innocent getting hurt or killed, property being damaged, and even possible retaliation against the company are too high to ignore. I think I would probably do something like Tim is suggesting…teach them how to be robbed in a way that keeps them safe, and pray that you never have to pay for a funeral. Let’s face it…in some parts of places like Detroit, you take your life in your hands just crossing the street, so if you know you are sending pizza to an area like that, maybe an investment in bullet proof vests would be in order?

  6. OK, so I know what the “right” HR answers are…
    But is there a positive angle on this? If that area of Detroit is so dangerous, is there a plus side to everybody knowing your drivers carry and will shoot back? I know, I know, that’s just silly and will lead to more trouble/danger than its worth, but I can’t help but think that even HR professionals can respond to the requirements of natural justice, too?
    Natural justice says this guy deserves some credit for shooting an armed robber. Natural justice says the public will support him and the brand. Natural justice says most people would want to shake his hand and not see him fired. Maybe firing this guy would cause more damage to the brand than people knowing the drivers can defend themselves?
    Sure, train the employees to be safe if you’re gonna send them out into the “wild, wild west” and not making the delivery in such odd circumstances would have been better and safer. But honestly, I wouldn’t fire this guy. I’d make him employee of the month and move on.
    Still, it’s a real shame about that wasted pizza…

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