Mississippi is a hire or fire at will state. The Doctrine is from the State Supreme Court. Employers or employees may terminate their relationship at will, for any or no reason. There are very few exceptions to this Mississippi legal doctrine. Those exceptions have to be codified by the legislature. That is exactly what the legislature did regarding the exercise of Second Amendment rights through the storage of firearms in employees' locked vehicles on company property.
A company, Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, ignored the state law and fired an employee, Robert Swindol, for violating the policy. They publicly fired Swindol in front of other employees and explained why they had done so. Swindol sued, and the case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit.
The Fifth Circuit noted that the company violated state law:
The Fifth Circuit began its discussion by noting Mississippi Code Section 45-9-55(1), which provides:The Fifth Circuit said that there was no case law on the subject in Mississippi, so they referred the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Mississippi Supreme court found that the legislature was empowered to protect the individuals exercise of Second Amendment rights as it had. From Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. MS Supreme Court(pdf):
(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.Miss. Code Ann. § 45-9-55(1) (Rev. 2015). The cross-referenced subsection (2) provides a different rule for certain secured parking lots, but neither party claims that rule applies here. Swindol, 805 F.3d at 521. It also is “undisputed that Aurora had a firearms policy that is inconsistent with [Section 45-9-55].”
Swindol appealed, and the Fifth Circuit has now certified the following question to this Court:
The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the Constitution and statutes of Mississippi protected the right to keep and bear arms, including in a persons's vehicle. In conclusion the Mississippi Supreme Court wrote: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 [Mississippi Code] Section 45-9-55.Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., 805 F.3d 516, 523 (5th Cir. 2015). The Fifth Circuit also concluded that it “would benefit from [this Court’s] analysis of whether Section 45-9-55(5) bars” Swindol’s suit. Id. at 522.
While Mississippi is an at-will employment state, that doctrine is not absolute. This Court repeatedly has stated that the doctrine must yield to express legislative action and/or prohibitions found in federal or state law. We find that such “express legislative action” and “state law prohibitions” exist here. We also find that Subsection (5) does not protect Aurora from liability under the facts of this case. As such, we answer the certified question affirmatively.While seemingly obvious and incremental, the case adds to the growing number of cases that find that state governments have solid and presumtive reasons for protecting their residents' right to keep and bear arms.
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