Workplace Violence Restraining Orders
Employers have an ethical and legal duty to provide a safe workplace. This includes a duty to protect employees from threats of violence made by co-workers, customers, and other third parties. A Workplace Violence Restraining Order is a court order that employers can seek that provides significant protection to employees who have experienced workplace violence or threats of violence.
At Power Trial Lawyers, we’ve assembled a dedicated team of Los Angeles protective order attorneys who have significant experience obtaining Workplace Violence Restraining Orders on behalf of Los Angeles employers. We command an impressive understanding of the procedural and substantive legal principles that govern these orders and what it takes to efficiently obtain a Workplace Violence Restraining Order to protect your employees—and your business.What Is a Workplace Violence Restraining Order?
In California, Workplace Violence Restraining Orders are specialized mechanisms designed to protect employees from potential threats or acts of violence while at work. Specifically, this type of restraining order is sought after by employers on behalf of their employees, particularly when an employee has been subjected to harassment, threats, stalking, or violence by another individual, which could be from coworkers to customers or even personal acquaintances. The overarching goal of Workplace Violence Restraining Orders is to ensure employees’ safety and psychological well-being while they are in their professional environment.
For the order to be applicable, an employer must present a comprehensive application detailing the nature of the violence or threats, supported by any relevant evidence. Once the application is submitted, the court schedules a hearing. Initially, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) might be issued, offering immediate protection without the need for the alleged perpetrator's presence. This order typically remains in effect for up to 15 days. However, for more extended protection, a Permanent Restraining Order can be sought, which, if granted after both parties present their case in a court hearing, can last for up to three years. It's essential to note that any breach of a Los Angeles Workplace Violence Restraining Order can result in severe legal repercussions, including potential criminal charges.Who Can Seek a Workplace Violence Restraining Order?
Unlike other types of California restraining orders where the person experiencing harassment or abuse petitions the court themselves, Workplace Violence Restraining Orders can only be sought by employers. Thus, employees who are being subject to threats of violence or harassment while at work must first inform their employer. Alternatively, an employee is free to file for a Civil Harassment Restraining Order on their own.Which Parties Can a Workplace Violence Restraining Order Protect?
Workplace Violence Restraining Orders are designed to protect employees who have been subject to unlawful violence or credible threats of violence at the workplace. In this context, the term “employee” is broadly defined to include salaried and hourly workers, commission-based workers, members of the board of directors, public officers, volunteers, and independent contractors.What Type of Conduct Can a Workplace Violence Restraining Order Prevent?
A Los Angeles County judge can grant a Workplace Violence Restraining Order to protect employees, their family members, others who live with the employee, and the workplace itself.
While the terms of a Workplace Violence Restraining Order will vary depending on the specific allegations, the following types of orders are commonly issued:
No Contact Orders: A no contact order prevents the restrained person from contacting the protected employee.
Peaceful Contact Orders: A peaceful contact order requires that the restrained party refrain from harassing, stalking, threatening, or harming anyone protected by the order.
Stay Away Orders: A stay away order prevents the restrained person from approaching the physical vicinity of the protected employee. In some cases, the precludes the restrained party from visiting the employer’s place of business.
No Firearm Orders: Los Angeles County judges will also issue an order requiring the restrained party to turn in all firearms and ammunition they own. This order also prevents the restrained party from purchasing or otherwise obtaining a firearm or ammunition.What Are an Employer’s Obligations When Employees Face Violence or Threats of Violence?
Employers have a general duty of care to provide a safe working environment. This means taking reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable risks, which include threats or acts of violence. When an employee approaches an employer with concerns about recent acts of violence or threats of violence they’ve experienced, the employer must take these reports seriously. While an employer’s obligations will vary, depending on the specific circumstances, some of the actions employers should take include:Consider the Impact on Workplace Responsibilities
Obtaining a Workplace Violence Restraining Order will often impact an employee’s ability to do their job. For example, if a receptionist is subject to threats of violence made by a frequent customer, the employee may need to be transferred to another open position unless the Workplace Violence Restraining Order prevents the customer from visiting the business. An employer should also consider the possibility of an employee receiving threats of violence over the phone.Collect Documents and Information
Once an employer learns of recent violence or threats of violence, they should act quickly to gather all documentation of the incidents. This includes threatening or harassing emails, voicemails, or hand-written messages left for the employee. Many employers will have surveillance cameras throughout the workplace and may be able to pull footage of threats or violence. An employer should also ask the employee if they have any documentation on their personal devices.Ensure the Worker’s Safety
Employers that have been notified by an employee that they are dealing with ongoing concerns of violence in the workplace should do everything possible to ensure the employee’s protection. This might include relocating the employee’s work area, assigning an escort to accompany the employee to and from their vehicle, or allowing the employee to temporarily work from home.File for a Workplace Violence Restraining Order
While the decision to seek a Workplace Violence Restraining Order rests solely with the employer, most employers value their employees’ input on the matter. Employers should solicit the employee’s feelings about pursuing a Workplace Violence Restraining Order, discussing the protections offered. If there is an immediate threat of violence, the employer should complete WV-110, which is a formal request for a Temporary Restraining Order. A Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO, goes into effect immediately and lasts until the court is able to hold a hearing on the merits of the employer’s request.What is a Temporary Workplace Violence Restraining Order, and When Are They Appropriate?
A Temporary Workplace Violence Restraining Order is a court order issued by a judge that immediately restricts the restrained party. Because a Temporary Workplace Violence Restraining Order is an ex parte order, it does not require the presence of the person whose actions the employer is hoping to restrain. However, to obtain an ex parte TRO in this circumstance, an employer must be able to establish:
- There is a risk of irreparable injury will result before the court can hold the hearing to determine whether a permanent Workplace Violence Restraining Order is appropriate;
- The employee or the employer certifies one of the following under oath:
- The respondent has been made aware of the application for a TRO;
- Someone attempted to inform the respondent of the application for a TRO; or
- For good cause, the employer should be excused from the typical requirement that the respondent be given notice of the petition for TRO.
Of course, if none of these apply, an employer is free to either seek a TRO after serving the respondent or forego seeking an TRO altogether. Not obtaining a TRO has no bearing on the court’s resolution on the merits of the petition for a restraining order.