Ask the Experts: Abiding by an Order of Protection

Question: We received an order of protection for one of our employees who was the subject of abuse. Do we just abide by the order or are there other actions we should take? This is the first time we’ve received a legal notice of this type.

Answer: An order of protection is a civil order that provides protection to a person from someone else, usually a partner, spouse, or someone with whom the person may have been in a relationship. While no order can ensure complete safety, it may allow the victim to feel safer and to have legal recourse.

You will need to abide by the order, which should clearly provide detailed instructions on your compliance obligations (to protect the employee from the individual who is causing him or her harm, etc.). Generally, with an order of protection or restraining order, when your employee is at the workplace, the individual named in the order may not be permitted in the workplace, in the workplace parking lot, and within a certain number of feet of the employee. If that person enters the property, even as a customer, while the employee is working, you must immediately notify the police and ensure your employee is safely removed from the area.

Additionally, the employee may need time off from work to seek legal assistance, counseling, or for his or her own safety. Show your concern for the employee, ask how you can help, and allow time off, if needed, for the employee to seek additional support. Never penalize an employee for seeking protection. Consider accommodations that allow protected employees to feel safe, such as having someone escort them to the parking lot after work or offering a flexible schedule to prevent the aggressor from being too comfortable with the victim’s regular work schedule.

To learn more about your role as employer when an employee has a protection order, or for guidance on creating policies to employees feel safe in the workplace, see the National Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence website.