Legislation to Protect Workers from Harassment Passes Judiciary Committee
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 employers more authority to protect workers who are being harassed by a member of the public while on the job passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
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.
“SB 428 is a matter of fairness and protecting employees,” Blakespear said. “Employers who have employees in positions that could be harassed by non-employees should have the ability to protect them before any conduct escalates to a threat of violence. Pursuing a restraining order requires time, emotional energy, legal knowledge and resources, and employees should not be forced to do that themselves for protection at work.”
Under existing law, an employer can only seek a restraining order to protect an employee if an employee has suffered unlawful 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 his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.
However, workers 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.
Without a threat of violence, though, the city could do nothing to prevent the harassment. SB 428 provides employers with a legal avenue to stop harassment of their employees. The legislation moves next to the Senate floor for consideration.
“Public employees are on the front lines of serving the community, and, unfortunately, that can put them at risk of harassment,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn. “This bill will provide an important tool to ensure public servants can perform their vital functions secure in their personal safety and peace of mind. I want to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing this bill that will give employers an additional tool to protect employees and furthermore, I want to thank Senator Blakespear for carrying this important measure on behalf of the City of Carlsbad.”
Elected in November, Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern coastal San Diego County and part of Orange County and includes the communities of Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside and Mission Viejo. To learn more about the district and Blakespear, visit her Senate website.