California Stalking Harassment Attorneys
Stalking Harassment in the Workplace
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), more than three-million people older than 18 were victims of stalking in the 12-month period that the data was collected. About 10 percent of those victims knew their stalker from school or the workplace.
Stalking adds an extra layer of fear on top of harassment in the workplace, leaving victims stressed, depressed, anxious, and vulnerable.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
If you aren’t in immediate danger, take the threats seriously, and seek every possible form of assistance. Workplace harassment and stalking can make for a lonely existence—but you are not alone when you rely on those who want to help you seek justice. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you file a complaint with your employer, talk to the police, formulate a safety plan, and file an order of protection.
What Is Stalking?
The legal definition of stalking varies from state to state. California law declares:
“Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime suggests that stalking is:
“a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center offers a slightly more comprehensive definition:
“… a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment made against the expressed wishes of another individual, which causes that individual to feel emotional distress including fear, harassment, intimidation or apprehension.”
What Form Does Stalking Take in the Workplace?
Stalking in the workplace may involve a colleague stalking another colleague; a supervisor or manager stalking a subordinate; a client, patient, or customer stalking an employee; or a vendor/contractor stalking an employee.
Workplace stalkers might engage in one or more of the following behaviors—some are more overt than others—to try to control or instill fear in the victim:
Overt stalking behaviors
- Making unannounced visits to your desk or office several times per day
- Sending unwanted emails, texts, letters, cards—often including sexual or romantic advances
- Sending unwanted gifts such as candy, flowers, jewelry, etc., or threatening gifts such as bullet casings or locks of hair
- Asking you for multiple dates after you have declined
- Calling repeatedly and hanging up
- Cyberstalking—making unwanted contact through social media
- Showing up uninvited to your home or social engagements
- Harassing your family, friends, pets, colleagues, or employer
- Filing frivolous lawsuits to keep in touch with or harass you
- Threatening to hurt the people you know and love
Covert stalking behaviors
- Following or watching you
- Breaking into your office or home
- Vandalizing your property
- Monitoring your phone calls and texts
- Monitoring your email communications and computer use
- Getting personal information through stealing, opening mail, accessing your email, hiring a private investigator, conducting internet searches, or digging through your trash
- Convincing his or her friends to harass and spy on you
- Threaten to hurt the people you know and love
- Threatening to hurt your pets
Laws About Stalking
Laws concerning stalking, regardless of the workplace, vary greatly from state to state. In all cases, stalking is illegal, but only 14 states consider it a felony upon first offense. California makes it punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. If stalking takes place in conjunction with a felony, a sex offense, or violation of a temporary restraining order, injunction, or any other court order, the penalties escalate.
Furthermore, stalking pursuant to a workplace is a form of harassment that constitutes a hostile work environment. If your employer has not taken measures to stop the behavior, you may file a claim against your employer. You may also file a lawsuit against your stalker and, in some cases, employer. Seek out an attorney who is experienced with workplace violence and workplace harassment to guide you through the process, while you focus on your personal safety.
What Should I Do if Someone Is Stalking Me at Work?
When someone is stalking you, you must keep yourself safe above all else. Call the police if you are in immediate danger. Next, call an experienced attorney, who can advise you about the next steps. Following the advice of your attorney will make certain that you protect your rights when you report stalking behaviors to your employer. Next, you need to document as much as possible when someone is stalking you at work, including communications, altercations, emails, texts, etc. This will help law enforcement and your lawyer protect you.
Experts at the National Center for Victims of Crime recommend creating a safety plan when you have a stalker. An attorney can help you devise the best safety plan for your situation, or refer you to a specialist. Discuss the following general personal safety tips with an experienced sexual harassment attorney, if reporting your stalker to your employer did not stop your stalker’s behavior:
- Rely on trusted friends and family to get your mail, screen your phone calls, or inform the authorities if your stalker approaches you.
- Have a security guard or colleague walk you to your car or public transportation stop.
- Get a second, secure phone number only for close friends and family.
- Check your computer for spyware.
- You may have to stop using your phone or computer for some time so you don’t provide location data to your stalker.
- Keep a phone nearby at all times—ideally, one your stalker cannot access.
- Take all threats seriously and report them to the police.
- Travel with a friend when possible and stay in public places.
- Vary your routines, so it’s more difficult for your stalker to track you or “accidentally” run into you.
- Do not interact with your stalker.
- Consider getting a restraining order or a protective order against your stalker. This can prove difficult when your supervisor or colleague stalks you. Furthermore, some victim advocate groups strongly question the usefulness of restraining orders. Discuss these actions with a lawyer and local law enforcement to figure out what is best for your situation.
- Think about contacting a domestic violence shelter. Those facilities may offer counseling, support groups, advocates, and—if you don’t feel safe at home—secure living arrangements.
Employees are entitled to a harassment and violence-free workplace. Contact an attorney who is familiar with stalking harassment in the workplace. Stalking is serious, and can escalate into dangerous acts such as kidnapping or assault, so shut it down fast. A skilled attorney can help you understand the relevant laws, discuss the merits of your case, and worry about the details of obtaining justice while you concentrate on your personal safety.
The state of California has passed a civil statute that allows stalking victims to sue their stalkers for monetary damages. It is worth reading the entire statute to fully understand when stalking becomes bad and problematic enough to create a cause of action (theory of liability).
Civil Stalking Law
Also see: California Stalking Statute
Cal Civ Code § 1708.7 (2014)
Stalking; tort action; damages and equitable remedies
(a) A person is liable for the tort of stalking when the plaintiff proves all of the following elements of the tort:
(1) The defendant engaged in a pattern of conduct the intent of which was to follow, alarm, place under surveillance, or harass the plaintiff. In order to establish this element, the plaintiff shall be required to support his or her allegations with independent corroborating evidence.
(2) As a result of that pattern of conduct, either of the following occurred:
(A) The plaintiff reasonably feared for his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member. For purposes of this subparagraph[ER1], “immediate family” means a spouse, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any person who regularly resides, or, within the six months preceding any portion of the pattern of conduct, regularly resided, in the plaintiff’s household.
(B) The plaintiff suffered substantial emotional distress, and the pattern of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
(3) One of the following:
(A) The defendant, as a part of the pattern of conduct specified in paragraph (1), made a credible threat with either (i) the intent to place the plaintiff in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member, or (ii) reckless disregard for the safety of the plaintiff or that of an immediate family member. In addition, the plaintiff must have, on at least one occasion, clearly and definitively demanded that the defendant cease and abate his or her pattern of conduct and the defendant persisted in his or her pattern of conduct unless exigent circumstances make the plaintiff’s communication of the demand impractical or unsafe.
(B) The defendant violated a restraining order, including, but not limited to, any order issued pursuant to Section 527.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, prohibiting any act described in subdivision (a).
(b) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Pattern of conduct” means conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “pattern of conduct.”
(2) “Credible threat” means a verbal or written threat, including that communicated by means of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct, including, but not limited to, acts in which a defendant directly, indirectly, or through[ER2] third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, harasses, monitors, surveils, threatens, or interferes with or damages the plaintiff’s property, or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent and apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family.
(3) “Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.
(4) “Follows” means to move in relative proximity to a person as that person moves from place to place or to remain in relative proximity to a person who is stationary or whose movements are confined to a small area but does not include following the plaintiff within the residence of the defendant. For purposes of the liability created by subdivision (a), “follows” does not include any lawful activity of private investigators licensed pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 7520) of Chapter 11.3 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, or of law enforcement personnel or employees of agencies, either public or private, who, in the course and scope of their employment, encourage or attempt to engage in any conduct or activity to obtain evidence of suspected illegal activity or other misconduct, suspected violation of any administrative rule or regulation, suspected fraudulent conduct, or any suspected activity involving a violation of law or business practice or conduct of a public official that adversely affects public welfare, health, or safety. For purposes of the liability created by subdivision (a), “follows” also does not include any newsgathering conduct connected to a newsworthy event.
(5) “Harass” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person.
(6) “Place under surveillance” means remaining present outside of the plaintiff’s school, place of employment, vehicle, residence, other than the residence of the defendant, or other place occupied by the plaintiff. For purposes of the liability created by subdivision (a), “place under surveillance” does not include any lawful activity of private investigators licensed pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 7520) of Chapter 11.3 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, or of law enforcement personnel or employees of agencies, either public or private, who, in the course and scope of their employment, encourage or attempt to engage in any conduct or activity to obtain evidence of suspected illegal activity or other misconduct, suspected violation of any administrative rule or regulation, suspected fraudulent conduct, or any suspected activity involving a violation of law or business practice or conduct of a public official that adversely affects public welfare, health, or safety. For purposes of the liability created by subdivision (a), “place under surveillance” also does not include any newsgathering conduct connected to a newsworthy event.
(7) “Substantial emotional distress” shall not be construed to have the same meaning as the “severe emotional distress” requirement for intentional infliction of emotional distress. “Substantial emotional distress” does not require a showing of physical manifestations of emotional distress; rather, it requires the evaluation of the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the defendant reasonably caused the plaintiff substantial fear, anxiety, or emotional torment.
(c) A person who commits the tort of stalking upon another is liable to that person for damages, including, but not limited to, general damages, special damages, and punitive damages pursuant to Section 3294.
(d) In an action pursuant to this section, the court may grant equitable relief, including, but not limited to, an injunction.
(e) The rights and remedies provided in this section are cumulative and in addition to any other rights and remedies provided by law.
(f) This section shall not be construed to impair any constitutionally protected activity, including, but not limited to, speech, protest, and assembly.
(g) This act is an exercise of the police power of the state for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the State of California, and shall be liberally construed to effectuate those purposes.