California Court of Appeal reverses workplace violence restraining order

Employer presented insufficient evidence to show credible threat of violence, ruling says

California Court of Appeal reverses workplace violence restraining order

Under section 527.8 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, an employer can seek a temporary restraining order on behalf of an employee who has been subjected to a credible threat of violence at the workplace.

In Technology Credit Union v. Rafat, the Technology Credit Union (TCU) filed a petition for a workplace violence restraining order (WVRO) against the defendant, a member of TCU. The petition aimed to protect M.L., TCU’s employee, from the defendant, who allegedly made a credible threat of violence against the employee.

Read more: Stabbed student claims school has duty to protect

M.L. issued a declaration describing the incident between her and the defendant at one of TCU’s branch locations. She made the following allegations:

  • The defendant became angry and aggressive while she was assisting him;
  • He took a video recording of her without her consent;
  • He made rude and inappropriate statements questioning her mental competency;
  • He repeatedly refused her request to stop recording her;
  • He assaulted her when he forced a pen and paper toward her and demanded that she write his number;
  • She was extremely scared for her safety due to this encounter;
  • She would likely have future encounters with him because he made efforts to harm her by posting videos of the incident online and because he frequently visited that branch.

The trial court issued a temporary WVRO then later a WVRO, effective until Dec. 31, which included a personal conduct order and a stay away order. The court held that TCU established that there was a credible threat of violence, through evidence including the defendant’s YouTube posts and correspondence with the credit union manager. The court found that the defendant was rude, impatient, sarcastic, and intimidating toward M.L., while the employee stayed courteous and soft-spoken.

The defendant appealed. The California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District ruled in his favor by reversing the WVRO and by directing the trial court to dismiss TCU’s petition.

Section 527.8 applies if there is a credible threat of violence that would make a reasonable person fear for their safety. In this case, the appellate court acknowledged that the defendant:

  • was rude, impatient, frustrated, derogatory, and sarcastic during the incident and its aftermath;
  • had a history of using aggressive language and offensive remarks;
  • berated M.L.;
  • complained to her supervisor;
  • made threats of litigation and complaints to a federal agency;
  • posted an video of his interaction with the employee;
  • made M.L. afraid of him and eager to avoid any further encounters with him.

However, the appellate court found that TCU failed to present sufficient evidence establishing that any of the defendant’s statements or actions created a credible threat of violence against its employee.

The YouTube video accurately depicted a business transaction occurring in public and included no threats of violence or exhortations to violence, the appellate court said. As for the defendant’s complaints about M.L. to her supervisor, these also contained no threats of violence and stayed consistent with his belief that M.L.’s assistance was incompetent.

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