A controversial bill that would require every employer in California to have in place a workplace violence prevention plan has been passed by the State Senate and is now in play in the Assembly.
The bill — SB 553 — would require any company with at least one worker to “establish, implement and maintain” a workplace violence prevention plan, as well as require employers to keep an incident log of violent incidents in the workplace. It would also bar employers from requiring their workers to confront shoplifters and would allow unions to seek temporary restraining orders on behalf of employees based on workplace violence or credible threats of violence.
The legislation comes as Cal/OSHA has been working on a general industry workplace violence prevention standard, but that process has been ongoing for nearly six years with no proposed standard in sight.
The proposed rules seem to be modeled on Cal/OSHA’s violence prevention standards for health care facilities and psychiatric hospitals, but in some respects, they are even more stringent.
Employer groups have come out against the legislation, saying its provisions are onerous, especially for small employers.
The main requirements of SB 553
Here are the highlights of the measure:
- It would establish a new general industry workplace violence prevention standard in California.
- Employers would be required to establish a workplace violence prevention program, which would have to include the following:
- Effective procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing, implementing and reviewing the plan.
- Effective procedures for obtaining assistance from appropriate emergency and law enforcement agencies.
- Effective procedures to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
- Employee communication procedures regarding violence, including communication between shifts and departments, how to report incidents, threats or other violence without reprisal and how they will be investigated.
- Assessment procedures to identify and evaluate environmental risk factors, including community-based risk factors.
- Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards in a timely manner and, for hazards posing a realistic possibility of death or serious physical harm, within seven days of the discovery.
- Employers would be required to record every incident, post-incident response, and workplace violence injury investigation information in a violent incident log.
Each entry must be a detailed description of the incident, a classification of who committed the violence, the working conditions at the time of the incident, the type of incident, and the consequences of the incident.
- Employers would be required to review with employees at least once a year the effectiveness of the workplace violence prevention plan.
- Retailers would be barred from “maintaining policies that require employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.” There is an exception for “dedicated safety personnel.”
- Employers would be required to make available individual trauma counseling to all employees affected by a workplace violence incident.
- If an employer fails any of SB 553’s requirements, it may face fines from $18,000 (initially) to $25,000 per violation.
As you can see, the bill is far-reaching and as a result the business community has come out against it. Opponents say the measure would impose a significant burden on California employers and it circumvents the Cal/OSHA rulemaking process.
Proponents say the new standard is necessary due to Cal/OSHA’s foot-dragging on creating its own workplace violence prevention standard.
The bill looks like it’s on its way to passage now in the Assembly as well. Two committees in the lower house have already passed it along party lines. If the Assembly passes the bill and Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2025.
We’ll keep you posted and provide more details if it becomes law.