One requirement for a content, efficient workforce is a feeling of safety and security on the job. Workplace violence, whether from employees’ domestic situations following them to work or from other sources, should be a concern of all employers. To address these problems and provide a measure of protection for workers, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Workplace Violence Prevention Act in 2004.
The Workplace Violence Protection Act has two general goals. First, it allows employers to pursue certain protections on behalf of their employees. Second, it prohibits employment discrimination or retaliation against employees who must miss work as a result of domestic violence or other harassment.
An employer may file a civil action to obtain a no-contact order on behalf of an employee who has suffered unlawful contact at the employee’s workplace. Unlawful contact is defined as intentionally causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to the employee, willfully following or harassing the employee on more than one occasion with the intent to place the employee in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or willfully threatening to physically injure the employee. The employer must consult with the affected employee before seeking the civil no-contact order to see if there are any safety concerns related to the employee’s participation in the process. If the employee is unwilling to participate in or consent to the process, the employer may not discipline the employee.
If the court finds that the employee has suffered unlawful contact, it will issue either a temporary or permanent no-contact order. Temporary orders may not remain in effect for more than 10 days, and permanent orders may not remain in effect for more than one year. The court has discretion to use the order to prevent further harassment of, or contact with, the affected employee. Violations of the no-contact order will be considered contempt of court and are punishable by fines or imprisonment.
In addition to the no-contact order provisions, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act protects victims of unlawful contact from employment discrimination. An employer may not discharge, demote, deny a promotion to, or discipline an employee because the employee took reasonable time off work to seek a protective order related to domestic violence, under Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes or a civil no-contact order under Chapter 50C of the North Carolina General Statutes. Employees must still follow the employer’s normal time-off policies and procedures, including any requirement to give advance notice to the employer, unless an emergency makes this impossible.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Act provides one means for employers to help protect their employees from harm and ensure a safe, productive workplace. In addition, it protects employees from discrimination or retaliation for work missed to seek protection from violence or harassment. In addition, it protects employees from discrimination or retaliation for work missed to seek protection from violence or harassment.© 2009 Poyner Spruill LLP. All rights reserved