Even as an online image of pistol-packing workmen at a Milwaukee construction site has city officials in an uproar, at least two contractors who do business in the area are saying they don’t forbid employees to carry firearms while they’re on the clock.
“We don’t have a policy and don’t feel we need a policy because it’s an individual’s right to carry a gun in our state,” said Mark LaLonde, president of Waukesha-based LaLonde Contractors.
Various members of Milwaukee’s Common Council expressed outrage on Monday after seeing a photo posted to Facebook showing three construction workers carrying handguns at a job site in Milwaukee. Two of the workers in the picture had their guns in holsters, while the third worker was holding his in his hand.
Late Monday, a few days after the photo surfaced on Facebook, one of the workers has been fired and the other two have been suspended pending further investigation, according to news reports.
“Behavior as dangerous and disrespectful as this is appalling and has no place in any neighborhood and by any city contractor, subcontractor or representative,” Alderman Russell Stamper, who represents the area where the photo was taken, said in a statement.
It remained unclear on Tuesday who exactly took the photo. The city’s Department of Public Works confirmed that it appears to have been snapped near the corner of North 19th and West Meinecke streets and that the workers in the image were employees of Rubicon-based American Sewer Services.
Attempts to reach American Sewer Services were unsuccessful Tuesday.
One of the workers in the photo was wearing a Poblocki Paving Corp. safety vest. In a statement posted to Facebook, the Milwaukee company made clear none of the three workers was a Poblocki employee. The company noted that one of the workers in the picture was wearing blue jeans rather than the uniform mandated for Poblocki employees.
“We are an employee-owned company and our employee handbook specifies no weapons,” the company went on to state.
At least a couple of contractors, though, said they have good reason for not prohibiting guns on job sites. LaLonde said his employees tend to find themselves working out in the open rather than in secured buildings.
“Because we’re road builders and we work in the public right-of-way, our job sites aren’t the traditional idea of a job site,” he said.
Even so, LaLonde could not recall a time when his workers have said they have felt unsafe at a job site. He said most of his employees live in Milwaukee.
Other companies, meanwhile, have changed their firearm policies in response to Wisconsin’s adoption of a concealed-carry law.
Dan A. Zignego, secretary and treasurer of Waukesha-based Zignego Co., said his company used to prohibit employees from bringing weapons with them to the job site. That policy was eliminated, though, after the state enacted laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons.
Zignego said he understands that an employer could be held liable if workers were hurt at a job site and then went on to show that having a firearm would have prevented the harm.
“Before the concealed-carry law in this state, we had a policy not allowing firearms on your person while at work,” Zignego said. “And now, due to the liability that is placed on you if you restrict that, we have since removed that policy.”
Thomas Alberti, a lawyer who once worked as general counsel for a Sheboygan-based company that he declined to identify, said it would be hard for a person to reasonably conclude they were harmed on a job site because they were not allowed to carry a weapon. Alberti, a firearms collector, said the presence of handguns is more likely to make work sites dangerous. He said he could easily imagine people being injured in accidents involving concealed weapons that either they or their fellow workers might be carrying.
“The company has to decide which is more risky, allowing our employees to carry guns or not allow our employees to carry guns,” he said.
When setting such policies, employers would do well to call their insurance company, Alberti said.
“I bet their insurance carrier is going to have a very strong opinion one way or another.”
David Turiciano, a construction business lawyer, said he would advise all clients to allow workers to carry weapons with them while working in certain neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
“They don’t have to take my advice,” he said, “but my advice is to make sure everybody is armed or they hire armed guards.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that a photo showing workmen carrying firearms at a job site in Milwaukee did not first appear on Facebook on Monday. It in fact first appeared on Saturday. We regret the error.Follow @alexzank