October 6, 2023

California Expands Workplace Violence Protection Orders

On September 30, 2023, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 428 providing expanded protection against certain types of workplace violence and harassment.

Existing law allows an employer to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) to protect employees and their immediate family members from a person who has engaged in violence or a credible threat of violence.

However, when workplace threats fall outside the limited scope of misconduct related to violence or threats of violence, employers have few options for court intervention. SB 428 addresses this limitation by expanding existing TRO protections to include harassment.  Under the new statute harassment is defined as: “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.”

After the statute goes into effect, a workplace TRO may be obtained if an employer can successfully show:

  • Reasonable proof that an employee has suffered unlawful violence, or a credible threat of violence by the respondent, and that great or irreparable harm would result to an employee; or
  • Clear and convincing evidence that an employee has suffered harassment by the respondent, great or irreparable harm would result to an employee, the course of conduct at issue served no legitimate purpose, and issuance of the TRO is not prohibited under the statute.

SB 428 will  not permit courts to issue  TROs for actions constituting constitutionally protected speech, actions protected by the National Labor Relations Act or other laws governing the communications of exclusive representatives of public employees, or other provision of law.

This law becomes effective January 1, 2025.