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Legal Information: California

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of May 3, 2024

What is the definition of workplace violence?

For the purpose of getting a workplace violence restraining order, “workplace violence” can be defined as either “unlawful violence” or a “credible threat of violence.”

“Unlawful violence” is assault, battery, or stalking.1 Importantly, the unlawful violence must have taken place at the workplace,2 which includes following an employee to or from work or during work hours.3

A “credible threat of violence” is a statement or repeated acts (“course of conduct”) that:

  • would reasonably cause a person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of an immediate family member; and
  • serves no legitimate purpose.4

It must be reasonably understood (construed) that the credible threat of violence could be carried out at the workplace2 whether that happens in person, over the phone, by mail, or online.3

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(a), (b)(7)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(a)
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(b)(1); see also California Courts website
4 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(a), (b)(1), (b)(2)

Who can file for a workplace violence restraining order?

An employer can file for a workplace violence restraining order if an employee has been the victim of workplace violence.1

If you are a victim of workplace violence, you might decide to ask your employer if they would file for a workplace violence restraining order to protect you. Alternatively, you could file for a domestic violence restraining order or a civil harassment order on your own.

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(a)

Who can be protected by a workplace violence restraining order?

A workplace violence restraining order can protect:

  • the victim of workplace violence;
  • other employees who work at the victim’s workplace or another workplace location within the same business;1
  • the victim’s family or household members; and
  • possibly spouses of the employees.2

“Employees” doesn’t just mean full-time paid workers. It can include volunteers, part-time workers, independent contractors, and board members.3

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(a)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(d); see also California Courts website
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(b)(3)

What types of workplace violence restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders, a temporary ex parte order and a final order issued after a hearing.1 A temporary ex parte order can be issued if:

  • the petition shows “reasonable proof” that the employee has suffered workplace violence; and
  • serious or permanent harm could result to the employee.2

A temporary ex parte order is issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser being present in court. It lasts for up to 25 days, until the hearing for the final order.3

Before the hearing, the respondent can file a response that explains, excuses, justifies, or denies the alleged workplace violence.4 At the hearing, both sides will have a chance to present testimony and evidence. Then, if the judge believes that the respondent committed workplace violence, s/he will issue a final order that lasts up to three years.5

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(b)(6)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(e)
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(g), (h)
4 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(i)
5 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(j), (k)(1)

What protections can be included in a workplace violence restraining order?

In both a temporary ex parte order1 and a final order, the judge can order the respondent to:

  1. stay away from the victim and specific family/household members;
  2. stay away from the victim’s workplace, home, school, car, and his/her children’s school or daycare;2
  3. not contact the victim directly or indirectly, including by phone, mail, e-mail, texts, or other communication;
  4. not violate the law called “Telephone calls or contact by electronic communication device with intent to annoy;”
  5. not commit the following acts against the victim:
  • harass, intimidate, bother (molest), threaten, stalk;
  • physically abuse;
  • sexually assault; and
  • destroy personal property or disturb his/her peace; and
  1. do anything else that the judge believes is necessary to keep the victim safe.3

The judge has the option of applying the above protections to the victim’s family or household members and other employees at the victim’s workplace(s) if the employer proves that there is a good reason (“good cause”) to do so.4

Note: It is illegal under California law for the respondent to have a firearm while this order is in effect.5 For more information, see What happens if the respondent has a gun after the order is issued?

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(e)
2 See Petition for Workplace Violence Restraining Orders
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(b)(6)
4 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(d)
5 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(s)(1)

How much does it cost to get an order?

There is no filing fee if the petition alleges that the respondent was violent or threatened violence to the employee, stalked the employee, or acted/spoke in any other way that made the employee reasonably fear violence. There is also no fee for serving the order, for a subpoena related to the case, or to respond to a petition based on these acts.1

If the judge does not agree that the case involves workplace violence, there may be a fee unless the employer qualifies for a fee waiver.2

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8(w), (x)(1)
2 California Courts website