Workplace violence – can you protect your employees?


In California, workplace violence is not as uncommon you might think.  Here, in California, an employer may be able to convince a judge to issue a restraining order, which is a court order, that may be used to curtail threats of violence against its employees. Under the right circumstances and allegations of actual or potential workplace violence, a judge may order a specific person not to:

Threaten or harass your employee; or
Approach or contact one or more of your employees.

A restraining order against workplace violence may protect multiple employees or even stretch to cover the employees’ family members.  As a business owner, why do you care if your employees are protected?  Well, a restraining order can be used to protect an employee where ever he or she goes, including work, therefore an order of this type may turn out to be fairly inexpensive insurance to help protect all your employees against threats of workplace violence.

How to obtain a Restraining Order

If you, as the employer, are not organized as a corporation, you can apply for one by yourself, or pro se, which means without a lawyer.  However, in California, if you are organized as a corporation then you must be represented by a lawyer and your lawyer must file the application on your behalf.

After the question of who will apply for the order gets sorted out, a restraining order will take several steps to obtain:

1.  You will have to submit what is called a petition for orders to stop workplace violence and seek a temporary restraining order.  You should have evidence that the employee for whom you are seeking the order is being assaulted, stalked or otherwise harmed, or that someone has made a threat of violence against that employee.  If you have no evidence, your petition will most likely fail. Upon submission of your paperwork, you can expect to receive a hearing date, which is the date you will plan to be in the court house and speak to a judge.

2.  At the same time that you make your application for your restraining order, you should request a temporary restraining order or TRO.  The TRO will put in place a restriction that should eliminate any contact by the alleged  perpetrator to your employee, from the date of filing up to and including the hearing date.  If the court grants (or approves) the TRO, you will have to deliver (or serve) all the documentation, in person, to the alleged perpetrator.

3.  Both you or a representative from your company and  the affected employee, if possible, should plan to attend the hearing.  At the hearing you can anticipate the judge may ask some questions about your request.  If the judge decides to grant your request, the order can remain in effect for up to three years. If your restraining order is granted and the alleged perpetrator has attended the hearing, you can have him or her served with the documentation while in the courtroom. However, if the alleged perpetrator does not attend the hearing, you are responsible to make sure he or she receives a copy of the documentation as soon as reasonably possible because until he or she receives official notice, he or she cannot be alleged to have knowledge of it.  You may also consider delivering the restraining order to your local law enforcement agencies.

If after receiving a copy of the documentation the alleged perpetrator violates the terms of the order, call the police!  If you contact the authorities, the alleged perpetrator may be arrested and charged with a crime.  Any restraining order can be enforced in all of the 50 United States as well as any U.S. territories and all tribal lands.  You should know that once a judge issues an order such as this, it can only be cancelled by a judge, meaning it will take more than an agreement between you and the alleged perpetrator to cancel any order that has been issued.

I hope you will never have to us this information, but can you fathom an instance where this might be a helpful tool?

Integrated General Counsel
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  1. Kristin again, I think you have hit this niche on the head. I would like to send this program to all the stores in CA. What do you think? These topics can be extremely important to the franchise owners.

    Let me know how we mihjt grow your population.

    • Hi Mike – I’d love to speak with you to see how I can help in the multiple stores in CA.