Heyl Royster

 

Working Without Fear: Orders of Protection Available in the Workplace

By: Heather Mueller-Jones, hmuellerjones@heylroyster.com

With the news riddled with violence in the workplace, the Illinois legislature has provided avenues for you to protect the workplace and your employees. Maybe an ex-husband is sending texts to his ex-wife or her co-workers, an individual stalking an employee, or someone is threatening your employees via social media. As of this January, you as an employer, can do something to protect your workplace, guests, customers, and employees.

The Illinois Stalking No Contact Order Act is now available to workplaces, schools, and churches to protect themselves, their guests/members/customers, and employees. 740 ILCS 21/1. The purpose of the Stalking No Contact Order Act, as stated by the legislature, is to protect individuals from stalking. The Act further states that “[s]talking behavior includes following a person, conducting surveillance of the person, appearing at the person’s home, work or school, making unwanted phone calls, sending unwanted emails, unwanted messages via social media, or text messages, leaving objects for the person, vandalizing the person’s property, or injuring a pet.” 740 ILCS 21/5.

In order for a workplace, which would include governmental employers and workplaces, to obtain a Stalking No Contact Order, the workplace needs to show and prove that the stalking individual, the respondent, has committed two or more acts “including but not limited to acts in which a respondent directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, or threatens a person, workplace, school, or place of worship, engages in other contact, or interferes with or damages a person’s property or pet. A course of conduct may include contact via electronic communications.” 740 ILCS 21/10.

If you have an individual who has committed two or more of the above courses of conduct, you as a workplace can file an emergency and/or plenary request for a Stalking No Contact Order. An emergency Stalking No Contact Order can be obtained after a hearing where no notice is given to the individual who has committed the stalking. An Emergency Order is granted if “there is good cause to grant remedy, regardless of prior service of process or of notice upon the respondent, because the harm which that remedy is intended to prevent would be likely to occur if the respondent were given any prior notice, or greater notice was actually given, of the petitioner’s efforts to obtain judicial relief.” 740 ILCS 21/95.

An emergency order is only in place until the hearing on the plenary (2 year) request for Stalking No Contact Order. The respondent must receive notice of the plenary hearing and the Act has specific provisions for that. The plenary hearing is an evidentiary hearing where evidence and testimony are presented to establish that the respondent has committed two or more of the courses of conduct described above. If the plenary Stalking No Contact Order is granted, it will be in effect for two years.

In either an emergency or plenary Stalking No Contact Order, the respondent can be ordered to have no contact with employees in any form, to stay a certain amount of distance from the workplace and can even require the respondent to relinquish his or her guns. Once the Stalking No Contact Order is entered, the respondent may be arrested if any violation of the Order occurs, and charged with a misdemeanor.

If violence has been committed or threatened against your workplace or any of its employees, another way that employers can protect their employees and your workplace is through the Workplace Violence Prevention Act. 820 ILCS 275/1. The purpose of the Act is “to assist employers in protecting their workforces, customers, guests, and property by limiting access to workplace venues by potentially violent individuals.” 820 ILCS 275/5.

An employer may seek a workplace protection restraining order to prohibit further violence or threats of violence by the respondent if: (1) an employee has suffered unlawful violence and the respondent has made a credible threat of violence to be carried out at the employee’s workplace; (2) an employee believes that the respondent has made a credible threat of violence to be carried out at the employee’s workplace; or (3) an unlawful act of violence has been carried out at the workplace or the respondent has made a credible threat of violence at the workplace.

This Act allows the workplace to obtain protection from individuals, including those domestically related to an employee. In essence, this protection can protect an abused employee from an abusive spouse, parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend. In order to use the Act in that manner, the employee involved must be given notice in writing by the employer and there must be a verbal consultation to determine whether any safety or well-being concerns exist in relation to the employer’s pursuit of the order or whether seeking the order may interfere with the employee’s own legal actions.

Like the Stalking No Contact Order, an employer can seek an emergency and/or plenary Order and this process involves the same criteria and hearings. The remedies include prohibiting violence, prohibiting contact, and requiring the respondent to stay a certain distance away from the workplace and employees. The remedies can also require the respondent to relinquish his or her guns and also pay for any property damage that may have occurred due to the respondent’s actions.

Illinois has given you as an employer tools to protect your employees and guests when these type of stalking or violent situations occur. While we hope that you will never encounter these issues, these types of stalking behaviors have been on the rise. While there are forms available to you by the courts when filing these types of actions, there are intricacies involved and evidentiary hearings required. As such, we do recommend hiring an attorney to assist you in this process. If you or your workplace needs assistance in filing these types of orders, we have attorneys who have already represented employers in these actions and that can assist you.