Please be advised that contacting Ruder Ware by e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact the firm by e-mail with respect to a matter where the firm does not already represent you, any information which you disclose to us may not be regarded as privileged or confidential.


Accept   Cancel

Please be advised that contacting Ruder Ware by e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact the firm by e-mail with respect to a matter where the firm does not already represent you, any information which you disclose to us may not be regarded as privileged or confidential.


Accept   Cancel

PAL Login

linkedin.jpgyoutube.jpgvimeo.jpgtwitter_off.png View Ruder Ware

Employment Blog

Protecting Your Workplace May Be Getting Easier

Authored by Kevin J.T. Terry
Posted on August 27, 2014
Filed under Employment

On numerous occasions, we have received a phone call from a client that goes something like this: "An employee has reported to human resources that their (family member/friend/acquaintance) has been engaging in harassing behavior that the employee is concerned may continue into the workplace. What can we do to protect the employees (or students), our customers (or parents), and our business (or school district)?"

Unfortunately, our suggested course of action always seemed to lack teeth. We could monitor the employee in the workplace and respond quickly to any threats, but there were not many proactive steps available to an institution in this scenario. Thanks to a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, my advice may change moving forward.

For the first time, Wisconsin law recognizes that institutions, not just individuals, are protected under Wisconsin's harassment injunction statute. In U.W. Board of Regents v. Decker, 2014 WI 68 (July 16, 2014), the university system sought and obtained a temporary restraining order to address the harassing conduct of a former student. The student appealed and argued that harassment injunctions cannot be granted to protect institutions, and his actions had a legitimate purpose: to protest the Board of Regent's activities.

The Board of Regents argued that Wisconsin statutes define a "person" as including corporate and political bodies, and the Board of Regents is both. The supreme court agreed with the Board of Regents, rejecting Decker's arguments on this point.

The conduct of Decker in this matter was extreme and clearly harassing. We are not suggesting that school districts and employers should immediately run to a judge to obtain a restraining order every time an employee or student feels harassed outside of work or school. However, it is important to recognize that this option may now exist. Many employers have felt a bit helpless and vulnerable to the harassing behavior of third parties in the past. Moving forward, employers must continue to utilize all available resources to protect its business, its employees, and its customers.