Question:

One of my employees is having some serious problems with her ex-boyfriend. I know that he has threatened her, and that she is afraid of him. I don’t know if he might do something dangerous, but I am concerned for my employee. Is there anything that I can do to help her? What if her ex-boyfriend comes to our place of business and puts other employees in danger? This is a very upsetting situation for everyone involved.

Answer:

You are right that this is a very disturbing situation for your employee, and potentially for everyone in your work environment. You can take action on behalf of your employee and her coworkers if you feel the situation is serious. As of September 2006, the law in California provides that any employer whose employee has suffered unlawful violence, or a credible threat of violence that can reasonably be expected to be carried out in the workplace, can now seek a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and an injunction on behalf of the employee and on behalf of any number of other employees at the same workplace.

The foregoing actually represents a change in the law, which was brought about last year by California Assembly Bill 2695. That bill provides that employers may not only seek orders that protect multiple employees, but that it may also seek orders protecting multiple worksites. California Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8 already allowed employers to seek a temporary restraining order on behalf of an employee who was threatened with violence in the workplace. Assembly Bill 2695 has now extended the scope of an employer’s rights in seeking injunctive relief against an individual threatening violence by permitting employers the additional right of obtaining a temporary restraining order on behalf of employees other than the one being directly threatened. This new law is intended to address situations where the employee who is directly threatened does not wish to pursue a restraining order on their own behalf, but where the employer feels there is a credible threat of violence against the employee and other employees in the workplace.

As mentioned above, the law regarding protective orders applies when an employee or employees experience unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence in the workplace. A “credible threat of violence” is typically defined as a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct which would cause a reasonable person to believe that he or she is under threat of death or serious bodily injury, and which is intended to (and does) cause a person to actually believe that he or she is under such a threat. “Unlawful violence” is deemed to be conduct such as assault, battery, and/or stalking.

It does not sound like your employee has directly suffered any unlawful violence at this point in time, though you did indicate that she has been threatened. If you believe that your employee has thus been subjected to a credible threat of violence that could be carried out in your workplace, you can begin the process of obtaining a TRO on her behalf. Your first step would be to file a “ Petition of Employer for Injunction Prohibiting Violence or Threats of Violence Against Employee” with the court, setting forth the reasons that you are seeking a TRO, and explaining the circumstances that would justify the issuance of such an order by the court. The necessary forms, and instructions on how to use them, are available at the following website: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/

Assuming that your TRO is granted, the court clerk will schedule a hearing before a judge where you can present your case for why a permanent injunction against your employee’s former boyfriend is necessary. If the judge agrees with you, he or she will issue an order specifying what behavior is unacceptable, based on the relief sought in your petition (e.g., a stay-away order, an ordering precluding any contact with your employee, etc.). This type of injunctive relief can last for up to three years, and can be extended at the conclusion of that time period if need be.

Lastly, because this is a potentially serious situation, you may wish to consult with an attorney in order to ensure that any protective relief you obtain for your employees is as comprehensive and effective as possible.
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