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The North Coast Village Condominium Association is a California nonprofit corporation with forty-two employees and five board members. The North Coast Village condominium complex includes approximately 550 condominium units, an on-sight management office, and a security office.

The Association filed a workplace violence restraining order petition pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.8 in support of its board president, Neil Anderson, and 46 other employees and board members seeking to restrain resident Nancy Phillips. Phillips and Anderson both own units within the community and Phillips previously served two terms on the Association’s board of directors. Anderson is the current board president.

Phillips and Anderson both own units within the community and Phillips previously served two terms on the Association’s board of directors. Anderson is the current board president.

Joseph Valenti was the Association’s general manager for twenty-four years before he retired early – due in part to the fact that dealing with Phillips was “too much.” He first met Phillips in 2005 when she angrily confronted him for supporting a contractor she had reported to the contractor’s licensing board. Valenti estimated that Phillips threatened to fire him over fifty times, including while she was on the board and was his boss. He said he feared for his safety as a result because he was the sole provider for his wife.

Fidel Jiran is the security patrol supervisor, and once while investigating a car in the parking area, Phillips became irate, shouted numerous profanities, walked quickly towards him, and took a backhanded swipe at his facial area. Jiran pulled his head backward to try to avoid her, but she knocked his baseball cap to the ground.

Jennifer Duren works as an administrative assistant and client relations specialist in the Association office.Phillips came into the office and asked to speak with Valenti. Duren went to Valenti’s doorway to announce Phillips. Phillips then came up behind Duren and shoved her with both hands into Valenti’s office.

Anderson served in the military for 26 years before retiring and taking a job as the director of disaster preparedness with a local fire department. He first encountered Phillips at an executive committee meeting after they were both elected to the Association’s board in 2016. He testified of many confrontations with her, one where she accused him and had him prosecuted in 2018 for lewd conduct for walking around in his underwear. He hired an attorney, defended and won the misdemeanor criminal case she instigated. Numerous conflicts occurred between the two during the following years.

Phillips continued to walk by his condominium almost every day – at least a hundred times according to Anderson – constantly muttering. This persisted even after the Association obtained a temporary workplace violence restraining order against her on February 4, 2021. On one occasion, he heard Phillips say “you (expletive deleted), I’m going to get you if it’s the last thing I do.” He said she appeared to be filming him as she walked by.

At the conclusion of a three-day hearing, the trial court denied the Association’s request. It then sua sponte and absent a request to amend the pleadings by either party, awarded Anderson a civil harassment restraining order pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6 against Phillips “in the interest of judicial efficiency and conforming pleadings to proof.”

Phillips appealed and the Association cross-appealed. The Court of Appeall reversed and remanded in the published decision in North Coast Village Condominium Assn. v. Phillips D079455 (August 2023).

The Court of Appeal agreed with Phillips on her appeal claiming that that she was denied due process protections when the court sua sponte amended the pleadings at the conclusion of the case without prior notice.

“The breadth of behavior subject to restriction under section 527.8 also is narrower than that covered by section 527.6, meaning the section 527.8 petition did not put Phillips on notice to engage in discovery of certain facts or prepare appropriate defenses.”

On cross-appeal, the Association argues the trial court misinterpreted and misapplied section 527.8. It contends the trial court erred in concluding that section 527.8 did not apply to the December 23, 2020, and January 16, 2021 incidents because (1) Phillips was standing on public versus Association property, and (2) Anderson was not acting in his official capaciy as a board member at the time of the incidents.

Anderson testified that he considers his home to be his office, and he will respond to Association needs 24 hours a day if he is needed. He also testified residents approach him in the community to ask him questions or talk to him “all the time” and at all different hours.

But the Court of Appeal noted that some ambiguity remains in the workplace violence statute as to whether the definition of “workplace” includes a home office when the individual is not actively engaged in work at the time. And neither the legislative history nor caselaw “provides clear guidance as to whether section 527.8 encompasses protection for those who live at their workplace.”

The boundary also is not clear regarding the trial court’s other distinction between whether Anderson was acting as an employee at the relevant times or not.

“Now that many employees have the ability to work from anywhere and even on their phones, employees may alternate between handling personal and work matters throughout the day and night and follow a less defined work schedule than in the past. As a result, the distinction between when someone is and is not functioning as an employee may not always be abundantly clear.”

Ultimately, how this statute is applied in an evolving work environment likely is an issue the legislature will need to revisit. We conclude only that the limitations imposed by the trial court in this case are not supported by the language or history of the statute.

The reasoning of the trial Judge on these issued “do not provide a sufficient record that would allow us to determine the court’s holding absent the added limitations regarding location and capacity, remand is appropriate.”

“We express no opinion as to how the petition should be resolved.”