US Sixth Circuit of Appeals Upholds Ruling That Kentucky Employee Was Not Wrongfully Fired for Having a Weapon on Company Grounds
Bruce Holly, an employee of the United Parcel Service in Kentucky, sued his employer for firing him after he concealed a weapon in another employee’s car. In the language of the case summary of the US Sixth Circuit of Appeals, Holly alleged “that his termination constituted wrongful discharge in violation of the public policy evidenced by those statutes.” According to Kentucky Revised Statutes § 237.110 and § 237.110(17), an individual with a permit can carry a weapon, even in his or her car.
However, the case was thrown out on several occasions: once by Jefferson Circuit Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a second time by United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Both of the rulings were upheld by the federal appeals court. According to the appeals court, “While it is undisputed that Holly possessed a gun in his vehicle UPS SCS premises […] it is likewise undisputed that he removed the gun from his vehicle and placed it in another employee’s vehicle–which is not gun possession.”
It should also be noted that UPS claimed that the reason for firing Holly was his poor performance and a violation of company policy, which forbids asking other employees for favors while on the clock. Though Holly attempted to argue that he was fired due to the concealed weapon, courts said it didn’t matter either way, since he removed the gun from his vehicle.
Holly further argued that he handled his gun responsibly. He told courts that he asked his co-worker, Kenneth Moore, if it was ok to store the gun in Moore’s car while Holly’s vehicle was at the shop. Though Moore agreed to store the gun, he was majorly uncomfortable having a weapon in his car, so he reported the incident to the supervisor, Ron Nolan.
After finding out about the gun, Nolan told Moore about a company policy prohibiting “the possession and/or use of weapons by any employee on UPS property.” However, no disciplinary action was taken. It wasn’t until several weeks later – after management and security became aware of the event through an unrelated internal investigation – that Holly was suspended and then subsequently terminated.
The dissenting opinion put forward by Judge John M. Rogers posited that an employee does not lose the protection of the law the moment he removes a handgun from a vehicle on the employer’s property. He further argued that Holly may have been fired for having a weapon and therefore should have been given the opportunity to argue in front of a jury.