Legislation to Protect Workers from Harassment Signed by Governor
SB 428 will allow employers to seek restraining orders on behalf of employees being harassed in the workplace
SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, giving public employers more authority to protect workers who are being harassed by a member of the public has been signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
SB 428 provides 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. The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.
“I thank Gov. Newsom for signing SB 428 and giving employers the legal authority to protect their employees from harassment from the public, when it occurs,” Blakespear said. “Until now, employees have been forced to seek legal remedies on their own for harassment that occurs on the job, and that’s not fair.”
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.
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.
“Because of this new legislation, public employees will now be free to serve the community without fearing for their personal safety or subjecting themselves to ongoing verbal harassment,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn. “I want to thank Senator Blakespear for carrying this important measure on behalf of the City of Carlsbad and seeing it through to this final step.”
Elected in November, Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern coastal San Diego County and part of Orange County. To learn more about the district and Blakespear, visit her Senate website.