Defendant allegedly stalked employees and engaged in abuse
CSV Hospitality Management, LLC filed a petition seeking a workplace violence restraining order under California’s Workplace Violence Safety Act against the defendant, for which it submitted supporting affidavits from four employees.
The defendant in the case of CSV Hospitality Management, LLC v. Lucas was living at a residential hotel providing supportive housing to formerly homeless individuals. The four employees alleged that the defendant was very aggressive and confrontational toward the residential hotel’s tenants and workers.
Two janitors alleged that the defendant frequently subjected them to verbal abuse while they were working, stalked them, and took photos and videos of them without their consent. One janitor claimed that the defendant forcefully pushed him into a window, while the other janitor said that the defendant confronted him at two local businesses while he was off-duty.
The trial court issued a temporary restraining order and scheduled the matter for an evidentiary hearing. The defendant denied all the allegations against him. He alleged that he recalled only one disagreement with the first janitor, which involved a dispute over COVID-19 social distancing protocols.
The defendant claimed that the second janitor addressed him with a racial slur, harassed him, and frequently watched him when he left the bathroom after showering and that he took the janitor’s photograph to complain about him to the property manager.
The trial court granted a three-year workplace violence restraining order against the defendant, based on evidence that it considered clear, convincing, supported, logical, and believable. The order required the defendant to comply with stay-away orders and to refrain from possessing a firearm or from harassing, threatening, following, or contacting the four employees. Violations of the restraining order were punishable by until a year in jail and/or by a fine of up to $1,000.
The trial court refused to allow the defendant’s counsel to cross-examine the second janitor. The trial court found that there was no authority to allow cross-examination at the hearing since it was not a court trial and that the defendant’s testimony was illogical and unbelievable.
The California Court of Appeal for the First District reversed the workplace violence restraining order. The appellate court directed the trial court to terminate the three-year restraining order, to reinstate the temporary restraining order, and to schedule the matter for a new hearing.
First, the appellate court ruled that the defendant was denied his statutory right to present relevant evidence. The court’s refusal of the request of the defendant’s counsel to cross-examine violated section 527.8(j) of the Workplace Violence Safety Act, which stated that a trial court should receive relevant testimony during the hearing, the appellate court said.
Read more: How HR handles violence in the workplace
The appellate court held that the provision’s plain language suggested that the legislature intended for a trial court to consider all relevant evidence, including evidence obtained by cross-examination, when deciding whether to issue an injunction seeking to prevent workplace violence.
Second, the appellate court determined that the defendant was denied his due process rights. The restraining order was proper for reversal due to the breach of the defendant’s cross-examination rights, given that the court could not know what the second janitor would have said on cross-examination or what the testimony’s effect would be on the decision, the appellate court said.
Courts have long recognized the importance of cross-examination and its crucial relationship to the ability to defend against accusations and have considered it a due process right fundamental to a fair proceeding, the appellate court explained.