Anger In The Workplace…Anger At Home

December 19, 2009  |  Jon P. Erickson

Anger in the Workplace . . . Anger at Home
First, two examples of anger in the workplace and anger at home:
In the Workplace:
Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones were business partners sharing an office, work space, common area, and staff. The two men had no altercations in the past, however, on one particular day an argument between the two men escalated to verbal threats, pushing and shoving. The next day, without Mr. Jones knowledge, Mr. Smith went to court and obtained a harassment restraining order by filing a petition and affidavit with the court. The court issued a temporary restraining order ordering no contact between Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones at the workplace. Mr. Jones was unable to conduct his business for almost two weeks until a hearing was held to consider the matter of changing the restraining order.
Mr. Smith also went to the local police on the day of the argument and filed a complaint accusing Mr. Jones of harassment, assault, and terroristic threats. Mr. Jones was ultimately charged with a misdemeanor assault.
At Home:
One Friday evening Mr. Jones, after a very stressful couple of weeks, came home and found that his 13-year-old son had taken his expensive fishing rod and tackle and gone fishing. Unfortunately, his son, who had been told numerous times not to take this particular rod and tackle without permission, broke the rod and reel.
Mr. Jones confronted his son, who was almost six feet tall and weighed 175 pounds and the son reacted very angrily. A scuffle ensued, his son shoved Mr. Jones, and, apparently, Mr. Jones grabbed his son by the biceps with such force that it caused a bruise.
During the scuffle, Mrs. Jones became frightened and called 911. The police arrived, saw the newly formed bruise, and arrested Mr. Jones for a misdemeanor assault and malicious punishment of a child. Mr. Jones was taken into custody and was held in jail, without bail, until court on Monday morning.
Could these two examples really happen? Are there laws, which make it a crime to have an argument with a business partner? Are there laws, which make it a crime to discipline a child in an unreasonable manner? The answer to all of these questions is, yes. This article is a brief look at how those laws work and the potential consequences of being unaware of them.
Minn. Stat. 609.748: Harassment; Restraining Order.
In this statute, harassment is defined as “repeated, intrusive, or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.” The breadth of this statute is intended to prevent unwanted contact with anyone. It can, however, be used in many more questionable situations, as Mr. Jones learned in the above example.
The statute allows the court to issue a temporary restraining order against an individual if a petition is filed and the court believes that harassment has occurred. Additionally, it states that notice need not be given to the respondent when the order is issued. It does, however, require that a hearing be held within 14 days after the order is issued. The effect of the temporary order is that the respondent is unable to have any contact with the petitioner until the hearing. This can have a devastating effect on the respondent, particularly when the contact normally occurs in a business setting where it is impossible to avoid contact without preventing the respondent from working.
The court may also issue a restraining order lasting up to two years once a hearing is held on the matter. There need only be reasonable grounds for the court to believe that the respondent has engaged in harassment for such an order to be issued. Ignoring the hearing can result in the issuance of a restraining order because the respondent did not defend his or her actions, making it difficult for the court to know all the facts of the incident.
The statute makes it a misdemeanor to violate a temporary restraining order or a restraining order. Additionally, it states that a peace officer can arrest without a warrant and take into custody a person whom the police officer has probable cause to believe has violated a restraining order. Using our example, if Mr. Jones stops at his office for any reason and Mr. Smith chooses to call the police, Mr. Jones can be arrested and taken to jail by the police as soon as they arrive, and no explanation will change the officers duty to arrest and jail him.
Minn. Stat. 518B.01: Domestic Abuse:
This statute defines domestic abuse as “physical harm, bodily injury, or assault or the fear of them” which is committed against a family or household member by a family or household member. As the harassment statute allowed for the issuance of a restraining order against non-family members, this statute allows for the issuance of one against family members. It also establishes the duty that a peace officer has to arrest any individual who is in violation of such a restraining order.
Minn. Stat. 609.377: Malicious Punishment of a Child:
This family law statute states that “a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act . . . with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child . . .” As the above example indicates, a parent can be arrested and held until he/she is able to be heard in court because of steps taken to discipline a child. It is true that the authorities must be notified and respond for an arrest to occur but, if a call is made from a concerned family member or neighbor who is aware of the events occurring in the home, an arrest can occur. The police are not obligated to investigate the events prior to making the arrest and an angry parent using reasonable though forceful discipline may find themselves in jail.
These three statutes were enacted to protect those who feel endangered or who are more helpless than others are. However, different situations and events can occur that could trigger their unintended use and undesirable outcomes. Awareness of the laws and mindfulness of our own responses to situations can help prevent those unwanted situations.
For more information, please call or e-mail BGS attorney Jon Erickson at (763) 783-5145, e-mail