On May 31, 2023, the California Senate passed Senate Bill (“SB”) 553 creating new workplace violence prevention standards in California. Under the Bill, employers are mandated to develop and maintain written prevention plans tailored to their specific workplaces. The Bill is next set to go through policy committees in the State Assembly. If approved by the Assembly and signed into law by the governor, the measure would likely go into effect next year. However, several policymakers have expressed concern regarding the effect of the Bill as written; thus, it is far from assured that the legislation will be approved without changes.
Requiring Comprehensive Programs
SB 553 places the impetus on employers to create and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. SB 553 requires every California employer with at least one employee to “establish, implement, and maintain, at all times in all of the employer’s facilities, a workplace violence prevention plan for purposes of protecting employees and other personnel from aggressive and violent behavior at the workplace.” The plans must identify potential risk factors for “each facility, department, or operation,” such as lack of effective escape routes or areas with blocked visibility, to determine where violent incidents are more likely to occur. SB 553 would also prohibit employers from “maintaining policies that require employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.” Additionally, the legislation mandates that employers provide employees with training on an annual basis to recognize the potential for violence in specific settings, strategies to avoid physical harm, and how to prepare for and respond to an active shooter scenario.
Regarding an employer’s post-incident response to violence at the workplace, the Bill requires that employers have procedures in place, including making individual trauma counseling available to all employees affected by the incident, referring employees to “worker wellness centers or employee assistance programs,” and conducting a post-incident debriefing as soon as possible after the incident. SB 533 also requires employers to record specific information in a “violent incident log” about every incident, response, and the investigation performed.
Implications for Employers
If SB 553 becomes law, it is imperative for employers in California to familiarize themselves with its provisions and take practical measures to comply. Under the Bill, employers must establish and maintain thorough workplace violence prevention programs, conduct training, and establish reporting mechanisms, among other things.