TAMPA — Ivette Ros grew up in a house where her father kept guns. For her, it was a natural step to get a concealed weapons permit and then to carry a 9 mm handgun.
The 37-year-old Tampa resident is a single mother of three children and said she carries the gun for safety.
“It’s just something about having it versus not having it,” she said. “I feel naked when I don’t have my gun.”
Her employer didn’t feel the same way. Carrying the gun got her fired, she said.
Ros has filed a lawsuit in circuit court against Wells Fargo Bank, which she said fired her last year from her job as manager at the bank’s Oldsmar branch. Her lawsuit says the firing violated her constitutional right to carry arms and asks for monetary damages and attorney fees.
“I’m a manager of a bank,” Ros said. “We have a lot of robberies that happen in our banks. I feel safer having that weapon if I ever needed to protect my employees.”
Ros said she sometimes left the handgun in her locked vehicle. Other times, though, she carried it into work concealed under her clothes or in her purse. She never openly displayed the gun, she said.
Last year, someone noticed she had a gun in the bank and reported her to bank officials. Corporate security investigated, and she was fired for violating the bank’s ban on employees carrying weapons into the building.
“I am within my constitutional right,” Ros said. “The bank is one of the places that I am able to carry a weapon to. My weapon was concealed. I have a certified license.”
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the bank wouldn’t comment on a court case involving an employee. When it comes to employees carrying guns into the office, though, the company’s rules are clear, said Kathy Harrison, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman.
“Team members are strictly prohibited from possession of firearms and weapons on company premises,” Harrison said.
The company does offer exceptions when a state statute exists allowing for someone with a concealed weapons permit to keep a gun in their locked vehicle in the company parking lot, she said.
Ros’ attorney, Noel Flasterstein, said the company’s policy is illegal.
In Florida, he said, “Employers can’t discriminate against their employees nor can they discriminate against their customers if they are ... law-abiding, licensed concealed weapons permit owners.”
“Just because it’s in their handbook doesn’t mean it is correct or it will withstand a legal scrutiny or a legal investigation, which is what we’re doing in this case,” he said.
Jason Bent, an assistant professor of law at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, said the constitution limits the government’s ability to restrict gun possession. A private employer such as Wells Fargo is another matter, he said.
“There is nothing in the state statute that says the employer has to let her bring it into the building,” Bent said.
Flastertein disagrees. He says the concealed weapons permit gave Ros the right to carry her gun into work.
“She’s a good person who elected to defend herself as she is constitutionally permitted,” Flasterstein said. “The second amendment is not a privilege. It’s a freakin’ right.”