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New California law aimed at curbing workplace violence

Photo: ljubaphoto/iStockphoto

Sacramento, CA — Employers in California will be required to establish, implement and maintain a workplace violence prevention program, under a new state law.

Signed Sept. 30 by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), S.B. 553 directs California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health to accelerate its development of a standard on workplace violence prevention by establishing an effective date of July 1. Cal/OSHA has been working on a Workplace Violence General Industry Draft for the past six years.

Initially, the bill would have banned employer policies that direct non-security workers to confront shoplifters, but that portion was removed after feedback from business owners. Newsom contends the law balances the need to protect workers while ensuring businesses can respond to retail theft.

“Employers are already required to take steps to protect workers from workplace hazards, and this bill strengthens those protections by providing specific guidelines for what employers must do to protect workers from acts or threats of violence at work,” Newsom wrote in a letter addressed to members of the state Senate after signing the bill. 

Also under the law, employers will be required to:

  • Maintain a “violent incident log” of all incidents against employees – including details on post-incident investigations and response.
  • Inform workers on how to get help from law enforcement or other employees assigned to respond to workplace violence emergencies.
  • Allow an employee representative to be a petitioner for a temporary workplace violence restraining order.
  • Identify those responsible for implementing the plans and spell out roles, trainings and protocols for assessing and reacting to threats of workplace violence.

Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), the bill’s sponsor, began working on the legislation after a May 2021 workplace shooting in his district that left 10 dead. Included in that total was the shooter, a disgruntled railyard maintenance worker.

“This groundbreaking law will help workers and employers establish a plan for the types of workplace violence that are on the rise,” Cortese said in a press release. “I applaud my colleagues and Gov. Newsom for recognizing the necessity of this law.”

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