Legislation to Protect Workers from Harassment Goes to Governor
SB 428 allows employers to seek restraining orders on behalf of employees being harassed in the workplace
SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, to give public employers more authority to protect workers who are being harassed by a member of the public was passed by the Senate on Thursday and sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign.
SB 428 would provide employers with the ability to seek a temporary civil restraining order on behalf of an employee who is being harassed at work. Under current law, it’s up to the individual workers themselves to seek such restraining orders, often at their own time and expense, even though the harassment occurs while they are on the job.
“Employers should have the legal authority to protect their employees from harassment from the public, when it occurs,” Blakespear said. “SB 428 gives employers the ability to step in so employees are not forced to seek legal remedies on their own for harassment that occurs on the job.”
Under existing law, an employer can only seek a restraining order to protect an employee if an employee has suffered workplace violence or there is a “credible threat of violence.” A credible threat of violence is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for their safety, or the safety of their immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.
However, workers sometimes suffer harassment that falls short of this standard but is disruptive and causes substantial emotional distress. The sponsor of this bill, the City of Carlsbad, reports several cases in which members of the public repeatedly harassed city employees over the course of a year or more.
In one case, a person repeatedly called demanding action to address his lack of housing. The city employees had no ability to provide the person what he was demanding, but he continued to call and email city employees multiple times a day, shouting expletives and leaving voice recordings of the employees that he obtained without their consent. This went on for a year.
“Public employees should be able to serve the community without fearing for their personal safety or subjecting themselves to ongoing verbal harassment,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn. “This bill will address an important gap in the law by recognizing the unique role of public servants and providing them with needed protections. I want to thank Senator Blakespear for carrying this important measure on behalf of the City of Carlsbad.”
Without a threat of violence, though, the city could do nothing to prevent the harassment. SB 428 provides employers with a legal tool to stop harassment of their employees.
Elected in November, Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern coastal San Diego County and parts of inland Orange County. To learn more about the district and Blakespear, visit her Senate website.