Workplace violence prevention

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In response to a 2021 workplace massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, State Senator Cortese moved to pass legislation that requires employers to implement safety plans to prepare for potential outbreaks of serious workplace violence. Senator Cortese’s work resulted in SB 553 which, after much “give-and-take” in Sacramento, was passed by the Legislature on September 20, 2023 and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2023.

Key aspects of the new law

Amongst many of its provisions, the new law requires most California employers to take a wide range of action after July 1, 2024 including:

  • Implement a comprehensive written workplace violence prevention plan (“WVPP”) specific to each work area and operation’s hazards
  • Ensure that the WVPP provides effective procedures to accept and respond to employees’ workplace violence reports and that all supervisory and non-supervisory employees comply with the plan
  • Review the WVPP efficacy and revise the plan as necessary
  • Record every workplace violence incident in a violent incident log with information on the incident’s date, time, and location, the workplace violence type(s) involved, and other details, such as the perpetrator’s identity, the underlying circumstances, the use of any weapon or object, the presence of a sexual assault or threat, security or law enforcement contact and response, and the identity of the person completing the log
  • Provide effective training to employees—using appropriate material based on employees’ educational levels, literacy, and languages—on workplace violence prevention, including information on how to obtain a copy of the employer’s plan for free, the requirements under Labor Code Section 6401.9, how to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement, and how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence
  • Keep training records for at least one year, violent incident logs for at least five years, and workplace violence incident investigation records for at least five years.

As noted above, the new law will affect “most” businesses in California. The following types o entities are exempted from the WVPP requirement:

  • Healthcare facilities (already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Violence Prevention in Health Care standard)
  • Facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Employers that law enforcement agencies, including being in compliance with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Programs
  • Employees who are teleworking
  • Places of employment where there are fewer than 10 employees working at the place at any given time, that are not accessible to the public and are in compliance with the requirement to develop and maintain an Injury Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP)

Action to be taken

If a business is not exempt from the law, it must develop and implement a WVPP and make it available to its employees by July 1, 2024. The WVPP will be similar to the required Injury and Illness & Prevention Plan (“IIPP), except that it needs to focus on responding to and reporting workplace violence. All non-exempt businesses are strongly encouraged to contact a seasoned employment lawyer to assist in creation of the WVPP.