All businesses face the threat of belligerent individuals in the workplace.
This problem arises in many contexts: a customer has profane outbursts in a retail store; an employee “blows up” at coworkers; a parent threatens to disrupt a graduation ceremony; an employee’s spouse stalks her with unwanted visits to her job site; and so on.
Fortunately, Massachusetts law contains various provisions that may help employers deal effectively with such situations.
No Trespass Notice
Under Massachusetts law, it is unlawful to enter or remain on private property after being forbidden to do so by the person with lawful control of the premises. This law enables businesses to send a “no trespass” notice to a customer, former employee, or other individual who might otherwise bring hostility to the workplace.
To help convey the seriousness of the matter, consider having your lawyer prepare the notice and serve it on the individual via sheriff or constable. Referencing the law and its penalties (which include fines, arrest, and imprisonment for up to thirty days), as well as cc’ing the local police department, also can be an effective deterrent.
Harassment Prevention Order
If an employee is being harassed by someone who might attempt to bring this behavior into the workplace, then the employer might consider helping the employee obtain a harassment prevention order.
Generally, an employee becomes eligible for a harassment prevention order when (a) someone commits three or more acts; (b) that were willful and malicious; (c) that were aimed at the employee; (d) that were intended to cause the employee fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property; and (e) that did, in fact, have this effect. The harasser need not have a marital, familial, or other close relationship with the employee.
Harassment prevention orders may require the defendant to stay away from the employee’s workplace, even when the employee is not there. As such, the order can have a salutary effect on the entire workforce, especially if the defendant had been making unwanted appearances at the job site.
Abuse Prevention Order
Domestic violence, too, can become a workplace issue. When it does, employers might consider helping the employee obtain an abuse prevention order.
Such orders are geared toward situations involving threatened, attempted, or actual physical harm (or other misconduct) by a present or former spouse, live-in companion, family member, parent of one’s child, or person in a serious dating relationship with the employee.
Like harassment prevention orders, abuse prevention orders can require the defendant to stay away from the employee’s workplace.
Massachusetts employers with 50 or more workers must provide up to 15 days of leave per year to employees affected by domestic violence.
Such leave may be taken to obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services, or legal assistance; to secure housing; to obtain a protective order in court; to attend child custody proceedings; and to address any other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.
Taking steps to maintain workplace safety has never been more important than it is now. While this may implicate complex issues, the bottom line is that a safer workplace is a more stable and productive one.
Please let us know if you need assistance in issuing a “no trespass” notice, in guiding an employee who may need a harassment or abuse-prevention order, or in otherwise keeping the workplace secure. We would be happy to help.