What Companies Need to Know About California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Law
December 20, 2023
By Kacey R. Riccomini
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 553 on September 30, 2023, following a spike in organized flash mob robberies that are often violent and target retail stores. Effective January 1, 2024, the law will require California employers to take certain steps to prevent workplace violence. Specifically, employers will be required to:
1. Identify names, titles, and roles of persons responsible for implementing the workplace violence prevention plan.
2. Enact a workplace violence prevention plan to protect employees from aggressive and violent behavior in the workplace.
3. Implement timely procedures to correct workplace violence hazards.
4. Establish procedures to refer employees to wellness centers or employee assistance programs, and to conduct post-incident debriefing immediately after the incident.
5. Record information about every violent incident, the response to the incident, and any injuries in a violent incident log. The information in the log should be based on statements from employees and others who witnessed the incident, as well as investigative findings. Specifically, the log should include:
a. The date, time and location of the incident;
b. What type of violence was involved;
c. A detailed description of the incident;
d. Whether the perpetrator was a client or customer, family or friend of a client or customer, stranger with criminal intent, coworker, supervisor or manager, partner or spouse, parent or relative, or other perpetrator;
e. Details of the circumstances of the incident like whether the employee was completing usual job duties, working in poorly lit areas, rushed, working during a low staffing level, isolated or alone, unable to get help or assistance, working in a community setting, or working in an unfamiliar or new location;
f. Details regarding the location of the incident such as whether it occurred inside or outside of the workplace;
g. Details identifying the type of incident such as whether it was a physical attack with or without a weapon, the weapon used, whether the incident involved biting, choking, grabbing, hair pulling, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, pulling, scratching, or spitting, whether the incident involved the threat of or actual sexual assault, including rape, attempted rape, physical displays, or any unwanted verbal or physical sexual contact, and whether the incident was an animal attack;
h. What the response to the incident was, including involvement of security or law enforcement, and actions taken to ameliorate the threat.
i. While the log must identify the name, job title, and date of the person completing the log, the log should not include personal identifying information that would allow identification of anyone involved in the incident, such as the person’s name, address, email, phone number, or social security number.
6. Establish a system to review, at least annually, the effectiveness of the workplace violence prevention plan.
7. Provide training when the plan is first implemented and on an annual basis thereafter to employees to address and report workplace violence risks that employees might reasonably encounter in the performance of their job duties. If new hazards are identified, additional training must be provided to address it. Training records must be kept for a least one year and include the dates, contents of the training, names and qualifications of the trainers, and names and job titles of everyone who attended the training.
8. Keep records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction for at least five years.
In addition to imposing additional duties on employers, the new law also prohibits employers from:
- Keeping policies that require employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters, unless those employees are dedicated security personnel like security guards.
2. Retaliating against employees who report workplace violence or contact emergency services or law enforcement in response to a violent incident.
Although individual employees could previously seek restraining orders, the new law allows employers and union representatives to seek temporary restraining orders on behalf of employees who have suffered violence or a credible threat of violence that might reasonably be carried out in the workplace.
Given the complexities of the new law and the fact that workplace violence prevention plans will vary by industry, among other things, employers should work with their counsel to develop a workplace violence prevention plan and appropriate procedures to ensure compliance.
This story originally appeared in Today’s General Counsel.
Kacey R. Riccomini is a partner practicing in business and employment litigation at Thompson Coburn LLP in Los Angeles, where she represents a wide range of clients, from Fortune 500s to smaller businesses. [email protected].
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