Amendment to Workplace Violence Prevention Act
On July 16, 2014, Governor Quinn signed into law an amendment to the Workplace Violence Prevention Act, which grants employers with 15 or more employees the right to secure a workplace protection restraining order against persons who have made a credible threat of violence against an employee to be carried out at the workplace, made a credible threat of violence at the workplace, or committed an unlawful act of violence at the workplace (hereafter referred to as the “Offender”). This law took effect immediately on July 16, 2014.
Under the new amendment, an employer may file a petition and affidavit in civil court seeking a workplace protection restraining order to prohibit further violence or threats of violence in the workplace made by an Offender, who may or may not be a current employee. An employer may seek a restraining order requiring the Offender to stay away from the workplace or to pay the employer for property losses suffered as a direct result of the actions of the Offender, including repair or replacement of property damaged or taken, reasonable attorney’s fees, and court costs to recover the property losses.
In cases involving an employee who is a victim of unlawful violence by a family or household member as prohibited by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act or a victim of unlawful violence as prohibited by the Illinois criminal code (“Employee Violence Cases”), the employer must engage in two required activities with the employee prior to filing a court petition seeking the restraining order: (1) give written notice of the employer’s intent to seek a restraining order to the employee; and (2) conduct a direct verbal consultation with the employee to determine whether the employer’s pursuit of the restraining order will create any safety or well-being concerns of the employee or interfere with the employee’s own legal actions. If, after direct verbal consultation with the employee, the employee does not give the employer consent to seek a workplace protection restraining order, the employer may not file for the order until a 4-day waiting period has elapsed following the date of the verbal consultation. The 4-day waiting period does not apply if there is an immediate threat of imminent physical harm to the work site and the petitioner is seeking an emergency order.
In addition, in Employee Violence Cases, employers subject to Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”) must give the employee special written notice alerting the employee of his/her rights under VESSA, including that the employee may qualify for accommodations and unpaid leave under VESSA and that the employee will not be discriminated against by the employer. Employers are also required to keep all information relating to workplace protection restraining orders in strict confidence.
In light of the new law, employers should be mindful of their right to protect employees and others in the workplace from Offenders who may be harassing, stalking, or engaging in violence at the workplace. Employers should also recognize that employees suffering from violence in the workplace or threats of violence in the workplace have accommodation and leave opportunities and anti-discrimination protections afforded them under the new amendments. Accordingly, we recommend that all employers subject to VESSA ensure they are complying with VESSA, including confirming their handbook or company policies incorporate a VESSA policy and they are posting the required VESSA notices in the workplace.
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© 2014 Kimberly A. Sarff, Esq., Quinn Johnston Henderson Pretorius Cerulo