California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill (SB) No. 428 into law, marking a significant expansion of the state’s workplace protection laws.
This new legislation is set to take effect on January 1, 2025, and it introduces crucial changes aimed at safeguarding employees from various forms of misconduct, beyond just physical violence or threats. Here’s a closer look at SB 428 and what it means for California employers and workers.
Existing Workplace Protection Law
Under existing California law, employers have the ability to seek a temporary restraining order when an individual engages in workplace violence or makes credible threats of violence against employees. This provision, outlined in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.8, empowers employers to file petitions for restraining orders to protect both employees and their immediate family members.
For instance, if a former employee sends threatening messages indicating harm to a current employee, the employer can petition the court to keep the threatening individual away from the workplace, the employee’s residence, and other relevant locations. Additionally, the court can prohibit any form of communication between the individual and the employee. Violating this restraining order can result in arrest and potential criminal prosecution.
However, this existing law has certain limitations. It primarily addresses misconduct related to violence or threats of violence. In cases where no violence or threats have occurred, courts have been less inclined to grant restraining orders. This gap in protection prompted the need for legislative changes.
Expanding Protection to Include Harassment
SB 428 bridges this gap by expanding the scope of California’s workplace protection laws. Starting January 1, 2025, employers will be able to seek a temporary restraining order against an individual who harasses their employees. This marks a significant departure from the previous law, which primarily focused on violence-related issues.
The law defines harassment as follows:
“Harassment” is a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be that which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress.
However, it’s essential to note that the law does not authorize courts to issue restraining orders for actions that are constitutionally protected, protected by the National Labor Relations Act, or otherwise safeguarded by specific provisions of the law.
Protecting Employees From Harassment
This expansion of workplace protection laws is a crucial development for California employees and employers alike. It recognizes that employees should not have to endure harassment until it escalates into violence before seeking legal intervention. By including harassment within the scope of the law, SB 428 aims to address issues earlier and provide more comprehensive protection.
The law ensures that employees can seek legal remedies when subjected to harassment, significantly improving their well-being in the workplace. Moreover, it underscores the importance of creating safe and harassment-free work environments for all Californians.
In Summary: SB 428 represents a significant step forward in California’s efforts to protect employees from various forms of misconduct. By expanding the law to encompass harassment, the state is taking proactive measures to safeguard its workforce. Employers should be aware of these changes and prioritize creating respectful and secure workplace environments for their employees.