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Under California law, courts can make orders to protect an employee from suffering unlawful violence or credible threats of violence at the workplace.
The court can order a person to:
A workplace violence restraining order must be requested by an employer on behalf of an employee who needs protection. The court order can last up to 3 years. The order can also protect certain family or household members of the employee and other employees at the employee’s workplace or at other workplaces of the employer. These orders will be enforced by law enforcement agencies.
An employer can obtain court orders prohibiting unlawful violence or credible threats of violence against an employee. The workplace violence laws differ from other California laws that allow victims of violence or threats of violence to ask the court for these orders themselves.
Employees CANNOT ask for workplace violence protective orders. If they want to protect themselves, they can ask for a different type of protective order on their own, such as:
If you are the employee and you are not sure what kind of protective order you should get, talk to a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer. Also, your court’s self-help center may be able to help you. And your local legal services offices may also be able to help you or refer you to someone who can.
For an employer to get an order under this law there must be reasonable proof that:
“Credible threat of violence” means intentionally saying something or acting in a way that would make a reasonable person afraid for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. A “credible threat of violence” includes following or stalking someone, or making harassing calls or sending harassing messages by phone, mail, or e-mail, over a period of time (even if it is a short time).
Read about the law in Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8.
A workplace violence restraining order can order the restrained person to:
Once the court issues (makes) the order, it goes into a statewide computer system. This means that law enforcement officers across California can see that there is a restraining order in place.
For the person to be restrained, the consequences of having the order against him or her can be very severe:
If the person to be restrained violates the restraining order, he or she may go to jail, or pay a fine, or both.
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
When an employer asks a court for a workplace violence restraining order protecting 1 of its employees, the employer must fill out paperwork telling the judge everything that has happened and why the employee needs a restraining order. The employer can ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to be put in place, without a hearing or notice to the other side, until there is a court hearing. If the judge believes the employee needs protection, and the employer followed all proper court procedures, the judge will usually issue a TRO protecting the employee.
Temporary restraining orders usually last about 15 to 25 days, until the court hearing date.
“Permanent” Restraining Order (Restraining Order After Hearing)
Whether or not the judge issues a TRO, the clerk will set a date for a hearing on the employer’s request for a restraining order. At the hearing, the judge may issue a “permanent” restraining order. The restraining order issued at the hearing may or may not be the same as the TRO. The order is not really “permanent” because it can last only up to 3 years. But it can be renewed after that if the situation continues.
Criminal Protective Order or “Stay-Away” Order
Sometimes when there is a workplace violence incident (or series of incidents), the district attorney will file criminal charges against the person committing the violence. This starts a criminal court case. It is common for the criminal court to issue a criminal protective order against the defendant (the person who is committing or threatening violence) while the criminal case is going on, and, if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, for 3 years after the case is over.
When an employer asks the court to issue a workplace violence restraining order, the employer must file court forms telling the judge what orders it wants and why. What happens after the forms are filed varies a little from court to court, but the general steps in the court case are:
1. The employer wanting protection for the employee files court forms asking for the restraining order.
2. If a temporary restraining order is requested, the judge will decide whether or not to make the order by the next business day. Sometimes the judge decides sooner.
3. If the judge issues (gives) the orders requested, he or she will first make “temporary” orders that only last until the court date. The court date will be on the paperwork. These temporary orders can include issues like:
4. The employer will have to “serve” the person to be restrained with a copy of all the papers filed before the hearing date. This means that someone 18 or older (NOT involved in the case) must hand-deliver a copy of all the papers to the person to be restrained.
5. The employer, the employee, and the person to be restrained should go to the court hearing.
6. At the hearing, the judge will decide to continue the temporary restraining order, issue a different restraining order, or deny the requested order entirely. If the judge decides to issue a restraining order, it may last up to 3 years.
Read Ask for a Workplace Violence Restraining Order for detailed instructions on how to ask for a workplace violence restraining order.
Read Respond to a Request for a Workplace Violence Restraining Order for detailed instructions on how to answer a request for a workplace violence restraining order.
You do not need a lawyer to ask for (or respond to) a restraining order. BUT it is a good idea to have a lawyer. If the employer is a corporation, it MUST have a lawyer.
If you are the employer, you may want to share these resources with your employee so that he or she can get counseling, advice, and other help regarding the violence, harassment, or threats he or she is experiencing.
Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help you in more than 100 languages. It is free and private.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline links you to the following resources in your community:
Emergency shelters Legal help Social service programs
This site lists help by county, like:
Legal help with your restraining order Victim witness assistance programs Counseling services for victims of violence Crisis hotlines
For perpetrators of domestic violence