• Domestic Violence in the Louisiana Workplace, Part 5: Stalking
  • October 11, 2016 | Author: Rachael M. Coe
  • Law Firm: Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. - New Orleans Office
  • It is not a matter of if, but when an employer will be confronted with a challenging domestic violence-related issue in the workplace. Domestic violence not only causes lost productivity and increased costs for employers, but also raises a host of potential legal obligations and liabilities that employers cannot afford to overlook. In this monthly series, Labor and Employment attorney Rachael Coe will discuss the various ways that domestic violence impacts the Louisiana workplace and what employers need to know in order to protect their employees, their customers, and themselves.

    Stalking is one of many manifestations of domestic violence, and deserves special consideration due to its prevalence and indication of physical danger in domestic violence situations. According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 79% of women who were murdered by their abuser reported stalking during the abuse period. This is a staggering statistic linking stalking to intimate partner violence, and employers must know how to recognize and respond to stalking that occurs in the workplace.

    In Louisiana, stalking is defined as the “intentional and repeated following or harassing of another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel alarmed or to suffer emotional distress.” This behavior can be verbal or nonverbal, such as showing up unexpectedly or leaving unwanted items for the victim to find. In the workplace context, stalkers may frequently appear at the workplace, make telephone calls to the workplace, or maintain a menacing and intimidating presence outside.

    Cyberstalking is also a crime in Louisiana, broadly defined as the use of internet, e-mail, or other electronic communication to threaten bodily harm or physical injury to property, or to repeatedly use electronic communications “whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of threatening, terrifying, or harassing any person.” An employee may experience cyberstalking in the workplace if the abuser knows her workplace e-mail address to harass the victim.

    Not only does stalking disrupt business operations, but it is also threatening behavior that can frighten employees and customers and escalate into other forms of violence. There are many options available to reduce the risk of business disruptions and mitigate threats to employee safety. If an employee informs you that he or she has a stalker or is dealing with someone that engages in unwanted, intimidating behavior, take the threat seriously and institute a safety plan that identifies and mitigates against potential dangers. Alert security and/or whoever is stationed near the entrance way of the situation and provide them with a picture of the stalker so that they are prepared if the stalker enters the workplace. If the stalker is using telephone or e-mail communications, consider blocking the stalker’s telephone number and e-mail address. Obtain a copy of any protective order that the victim has against the stalker and call law enforcement if the stalker is violating the order. If the stalker does not have any legitimate reasons to be at the workplace or on workplace property, the stalker could be guilty of trespass. Before bringing any criminal charges, though, consider whether this action could incite the stalker to resort to violence or exacerbate current safety considerations.