Readers of the previous article appearing here concerning Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation are familiar with the basic facts but a brief reminder: the plaintiff, Swindol, an honorably discharged Marine with extensive training and experience in aerospace materials and advanced construction was fired by Aurora for having a weapon in his locked vehicle which was parked in Aurora’s open-to-the-public parking lot.
Aurora had a “no firearms” policy covering all its property; a policy in direct violation of Mississippi Code ྷ45-9-55, which allows employees to have firearms in their vehicles in such situations. Also, it is claimed that Aurora’s HR manager called a plant-wide meeting and described Swindol as a “security risk.”
In the previous article, it was recalled that in 2003 an employee at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, MS, shot 14 co-workers, killing 6 and then committed suicide. The law allowing employees to have weapons in their locked vehicles in open parking lots was passed by the Mississippi Legislature 3 years later.
Aurora has filed with the Court (U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock) a motion to dismiss (throw out) the case, claiming that Mississippi’s current at-will employment doctrine applies (an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason except where the employee refuses to commit and illegal act or reports the employer’s illegal activities) and, therefore, Aurora had the right to fire Swindol.
Swindol is asking the Court to create a new exception to the at-will employment doctrine: where an employee is exercising a right specifically granted under Mississippi law, expressing the State’s public policy of permitting its citizens to “bear arms” in certain situations and places, firing an employee for exercising his rights is a “wrongful discharge” for which a lawsuit may be brought.
Should the Court throw out Swindol’s suit, the likely result, in this writer’s opinion, is that all employers in the State of Mississippi will be free to ignore, and violate, the law. One can speculate that the passage of ྷ45-9-55 was in response to what happened in Meridian in 2003. And, to this writer, it is not unreasonable to assume that the law was passed in an attempt to give employees some possibility of self-defense in such situations.
Hopefully, the Court will create the new exception to the at-will employment doctrine, preserving the rights of employees granted by the Legislature and furthering the public policy of Mississippi that supports the rights of its citizens to bear arms and defend themselves, if necessary.
About the Author
David Butts is an attorney with offices in Tupelo and Jackson, MS. He is the attorney for the plaintiff, Swindol in the case mentioned in this article.
Mr. Butts has been actively involved in efforts to preserve the Second Amendment rights of citizens, having filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief for over 1,000 Mississippians in State v. Smith, which upheld HB2, allowing open carry and has been a frequent speaker at rallies supporting the Constitution and especially Second Amendment rights.