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Mishawaka man sues Walgreens over alleged violation of 'guns in workplace' laws

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A former Walgreens store employee plans to file a lawsuit Thursday in St. Joseph County alleging the company fired him for lawfully carrying his gun into another Walgreens location where his wife worked.

Jonathon C. Hartzell and his wife worked at separate Walgreens locations in Mishawaka when he visited her on Sept. 27 on his day off. Hartzell has a valid license to carry a handgun and had a gun on him when he went into his wife’s store. A Walgreens employee asked him to leave because he was not allowed to have the gun inside the store per Walgreen rules.

Hartzell told company representatives that Walgreens’ policy violates Indiana’s “guns in the workplace” statutes. He was placed on temporary suspension on Oct. 2 and fired Oct. 8.

Attorney Guy Relford filed the suit on behalf of Hartzell and claims the company violated Indiana Code 34-28-8-6, which prohibits most employers from creating a policy that requires employees to disclose whether they possess, use, own or transport firearms – and 34-28-7-2, which prohibits most employers from creating a policy preventing employees from having a gun locked in an employee’s car and out of plain sight.

The laws were passed in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

“Plaintiff’s lawful possession of a firearm on September 27, 2012 was the sole basis for the termination of his employment,” the suit says. “Therefore, Walgreen conditioned Plaintiff’s employment on his agreement to ‘forgo his lawful possession of a firearm’ in direct contravention of Ind. Code 34-28-8-6.”

Relford also argues Walgreens’ “policy against workplace violence” is overly broad and in violation of 34-28-7-2 because it forbids guns anywhere on company property, even if it is stored in an employee’s locked car and out of plain sight.

Hartzell seeks actual damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs and an injunction ordering Walgreens to amend its policy against workplace violence to comply with the Indiana statutes at issue.

This is the second lawsuit Relford has filed challenging company policies that allegedly violate the “guns in the workplace” statutes. A suit filed in September in Morgan County against a security company claims ADM Enforcement Inc. required armed security guard Thomas Jordan to disclose whether he had any guns that weren’t approved by the company. The suit also alleges the company adopted a policy prior to Sept. 1, 2012, that prohibited any ADM employee from possessing a gun not approved by the company, including those locked in an employee’s vehicle and stored out of plain sight.
Relford said discovery is just beginning in the Morgan County case, Thomas Jordan v. ADM Enforcement Inc., 5502-1209-PL-1981.

 

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  • comment
    It wasn't his workplace he brought the gun into, it was his wife's. He knows what he did was wrong.lol it eludes me why he felt he needed to carry the weapon into the store with him when visiting his wife. if i were an employee i'd suspect that he wanted to harm someone. get the bull out of the china shop and all. from my experience, if a store is in a high crime area, Walgreens hires a security guard for the store anyway.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

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  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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