Matthew Mehdi Rafat was a Technology Credit Union (TCU) customer. He had had an interaction with a TCU employee M.L. on March 24 2021 and had made a video recording of the interaction, which he posted on his YouTube channel. A Technology Credit Union employee identified in this case by the initials “M.L” . believed that, due to Rafat’s “aggression” and “later efforts to cause [her] harm by posting videos of the incident on the internet,” Rafat “will come back and seek [her] out at the branch.”
California’s Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8 allows an employer to obtain a workplace violence restraining order (WVRO) on behalf of an employee who has been subjected to a credible threat of violence at the workplace.
On April 5, 2021, TCU filed a petition for a WVRO restraining Rafat and protecting TCU’s employee, M.L.. TCU claimed that Rafat had made a credible threat of violence against M.L.
M.L.’s declaration, which was attached to the petition, described a single March 24 encounter between her and Rafat at a TCU branch. M.L. declared that Rafat “became visibly angry and became aggressive towards” her while she was assisting him, made a video recording of her “without her consent,” “made several rude and inappropriate statements questioning [her] mental competency,” repeatedly refused her request to stop video recording her, and “assaulted [her] when he forced a pen and paper back towards [her] and demanded that [she] write down his number.”
On April 7, the trial court issued a temporary WVRO and set a hearing. The court’s temporary WVRO included personal conduct and stay away orders barring Rafat from contacting or harassing M.L. or visiting her workplace except for legitimate business.
On April 13, Rafat filed a response to the petition, and denied that he had made a credible threat of violence. At subsequent hearings the video was received into evidence, and several witnesses including M.L. provided details of the encounters with Rafat. The court issued a WVRO that, like the temporary WVRO, included both a personal conduct order and a stay away order, and the court ordered the WVRO to remain in effect until December 31, 2022. Rafat timely filed a notice of appeal from the order.
The Court of Appeal reversed in the published case of Technology Credit Union v Rafat H049471 (August 2022).
CCP 527.8 provides that a “Credible threat of violence’ is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”
“Our careful review of the record discloses insufficient evidence that could support such a finding. Rafat’s conduct on March 24 was indisputably rude, impatient, aggressive, and derogatory. Further, he had a history of using aggressive language, including making offensive remarks.”
“However, while he appeared angry and frustrated during the March 24 incident and its aftermath, there was not sufficient evidence produced by TCU linking any of Rafat’s statements or conduct to any implied threat of violence. The only threats he made were of litigation and complaints to a federal agency.”