California has always been years ahead of other states when it comes to protecting employee rights. Some of their mandates are outright scary for employers….but in the end everyone complies. The concepts are usually very simple, their execution is sometimes rather difficult. This one is easy; employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees. Step number one, do a background check. Not knowing who your employees are is a recipe for disaster. These workplace mandates are the closest thing to a law requiring background checks and employment screening we have ever seen! (Shameless plug – See our recent white paper on workplace violence)
Violence prevention is the law
California employers are legally required to provide a safe and healthful work environment for their employees.
As part of their efforts to maintain such an environment, employers should establish a workplace violence prevention policy that educates employees on the illegality of acts of violence or threats of violence against employees in the workplace. The policy should also explain what constitutes unacceptable behavior and consequences for such behavior. One of the most important elements in any prevention plan is a zero-tolerance policy for threats, harassment, intimidation, violent acts and weapons possession.
If, in spite of all efforts to provide a safe and healthful workplace, an employee becomes a victim of unlawful violence or credible threats of violence while at work, the employee can request the employer to obtain a temporary restraining order on his or her behalf to protect the employee from the violent person.
The California Code of Civil Procedure offers the following definitions in this situation:
“Unlawful violence” is any assault, battery or stalking, as defined in the California Penal Code.
“Credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and which serves no legitimate purpose.
“Course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, that show consistent purpose, including following or stalking an employee to or from work; entering the workplace; following an employee during hours of employment; making telephone calls to an employee; or sending correspondence to an employee by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of the public or private mails, interoffice mail, fax, or computer e-mail.
In order to obtain a restraining order, the acts or threats of violence must be reasonably likely to be carried out, or have been carried out, in the workplace; however, they need not be committed by a co-worker. Anyone who acts against or threatens an employee in the workplace is in violation of the law and can be subject to a restraining order.