Written By: Christopher B. Dolan
This week’s column is a follow-up to last week’s article on workplace violence including shootings. That column spoke about the rights and responsibilities of a business owner to create a safe workplace.
This column will inform you as to how you, as an individual and/or employee, can seek protection if you are concerned about workplace violence or the potential for violence from a family member or co-employee.
While employers are able to obtain Workplace Violence Restraining Orders, employees (and individuals outside of the workplace) are able to obtain Civil Harassment Restraining Orders to protect themselves against stalking, harassment and threats of violence. California Code of Civil Procedure (C.C.P.) Section 527.6 provides an individual the right to obtain a temporary restraining order, and if warranted, a three-year restraining order and in some instances, criminal penalties may apply. The basis for a restraining order can includes a course of conduct that constitutes harassment of an individual via phone, text, email, or other method of communication (California Penal Code Section 653(m)), stalking (California Penal Code Section 646.9), or harassment (C.C.P. Section 527.6 (b)(3). What follows are the definitions of these behaviors so that an individual who suspects violence of this sort can understand the law.
Course of Conduct
As stated in the California Code of Civil Procedure, “Course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose, including following or stalking an individual, making harassing telephone calls to an individual, or sending harassing correspondence to an individual by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of public or private mails, interoffice mail, facsimile, or email. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”
The California Penal Code states that “Electronic harassment” is when someone, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Under the law, a “stalker” is someone who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family. In addition to obtaining a restraining order against a stalker, the stalker may also be guilty of a misdemeanor.
“Harassment” is unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be that which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.
Credible Threat of Violence
“Credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for the person’s safety or the safety of the person’s immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.
There is a form which an individual can fill out, a Civil Harassment Training Order, created by the Judicial Council of California, Form CH-100. Once Form CH-100 is stamped by the Court, a Temporary Restraining Order Pending Hearing, may be obtained and provide protection for a period of time up to 25 days by which time a hearing for a permanent injunction must be set where the Respondent may present evidence arguing against the execution of a permanent restraining order.
For a temporary or permanent Order to have an effect, it must be served on the person to be restrained (the Respondent) and the police. You should not be the one to serve the Respondent as they may react violently. A Temporary Restraining Order goes into effect immediately and the Respondent (harasser, stalker, etc.), is immediately ordered to stay away from the protected parties (which can include family members and animals). The Temporary Restraining Order can include orders enjoining a party from harassing, intimidating, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, abusing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, or coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of, the petitioner. The Order can also result in the Respondent having to surrender any guns, firearms and ammunition they may possess. Violation of a temporary or permanent restraining order can result, fines, arrest and incarceration.