Navigating California’s New Workplace Violence Laws: What Employers Must Know SB 553

California has taken a significant step towards protecting employees by setting a new standard for workplace safety. This law (SB 553) will come into effect on July 1st, 2024, and will impose comprehensive workplace violence prevention requirements on almost all California employers. As the responsibility for maintaining a safe work environment lies with the employers, it is essential to understand the extent of these regulations and take proactive steps to comply with them.

The law covers all employers in the state of California with the exception of:

  1. Healthcare workers (see “Preventing Violence in Health Care Facilities” in Industry-Specific Workplace Violence Requirements).
    The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
  2. Employees who work virtually from a location outside of the employer’s control. 
  3. Employers with fewer than 10 employees whose workplace is not open to the public. 
  4. Law enforcement agencies.

Defining Workplace Violence:

California law defines workplace violence as any act or threat of violence occurring within a place of employment. This encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including physical assaults, verbal threats, and intimidation tactics. Workplace violence can originate from various sources, such as individuals with no legitimate business at the worksite, customers or clients, present or former employees, supervisors, managers, or individuals with personal relationships with employees. 

It’s essential to recognize that threats of violence can manifest through diverse channels, including oral or written statements, electronic messages, and online posts.

Employer Obligations:

The legislation places several key obligations on covered employers to ensure compliance and promote a safe work environment:

  • Establish a Written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan: Employers must develop, implement, and maintain a written plan specifically tailored to their workplace. This plan serves as a roadmap for identifying, preventing, and responding to instances of workplace violence.
  • Training: Employers are required to provide comprehensive training to all employees on the workplace violence prevention plan, its definitions, reporting procedures, and strategies for preventing and responding to violence. Training sessions should be conducted regularly, with provisions for initial training upon plan implementation and annual refresher courses thereafter.
  • Utilizing a Violent Incident Log: To promote transparency and accountability, employers must maintain a log documenting every instance of workplace violence involving their employees. This log serves as a vital record of incidents and facilitates ongoing evaluation and improvement of violence prevention strategies.

Formulating your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan:

The cornerstone of compliance with SB 553 is the development and implementation of a robust workplace violence prevention plan. This plan should encompass the following elements:

  • Designation of Responsibilities: Clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of individuals tasked with implementing the plan, ensuring accountability and coordination across all levels of the organization.
  • Employee Input Procedures: Establish mechanisms for soliciting and addressing employee input regarding workplace violence hazards and prevention strategies. Employees should feel empowered to contribute insights and observations to enhance the effectiveness of the plan.
  • Coordination with External Entities: Outline procedures for collaborating with other employers, law enforcement agencies, and relevant stakeholders to address shared concerns and promote a unified approach to workplace safety.
  • Incident Reporting and Response: Implement clear procedures for reporting workplace violence incidents, prohibiting retaliation against reporters, and promptly responding to emergencies. Employees should be informed of how to report incidents or concerns without fear of reprisal, fostering a culture of transparency and accountability.
  • Training and Communication: Detail methods for providing comprehensive training to employees on the contents of the workplace violence prevention plan, their roles and responsibilities, and strategies for preventing and responding to violence. Effective communication is essential for ensuring that all employees understand and adhere to the plan’s provisions.

Training Requirements:

Training plays a pivotal role in equipping employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Key training requirements include:

  • Understanding the Workplace Violence Plan: Educate employees on the content and purpose of the workplace violence prevention plan, emphasizing the importance of their active participation in maintaining a safe work environment.
  • Reporting Procedures: Provide clear guidance on how to report incidents or concerns to the employer or law enforcement authorities without fear of reprisal. Employees should feel empowered to speak up and take action to address potential threats.
  • Job-Specific Hazards: Offer job-specific training on identifying and mitigating workplace violence hazards relevant to each employee’s role. Tailoring training sessions to specific job functions ensures that employees receive targeted guidance on staying safe in their respective work environments.

Investigation and Record-keeping:

Thorough investigation and meticulous record-keeping are essential components of workplace violence prevention efforts. Employers must:

  • Document Incidents: Maintain detailed records of all workplace violence incidents, including date, time, location, descriptions, and actions taken to prevent further harm. This information provides valuable insights for evaluating the effectiveness of prevention strategies and implementing corrective measures.
  • Identify and Correct Hazards: Conduct regular inspections to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, promptly correcting any deficiencies to mitigate risks and enhance safety.
  • Maintain Training Records: Keep records of employee training sessions for at least one year, documenting attendance and course content. Training records serve as tangible evidence of compliance with training requirements and facilitate ongoing monitoring and evaluation of training effectiveness.

As the owner of your business, you hold the key to ensuring workplace safety and mitigating the risks associated with employee violence. While it may not be your fault, the responsibility will fall on your shoulders, and that could potentially lead to a lawsuit.

Take action now to protect your business and your employees. Contact San Gabriel Valley Law today to schedule a consultation and ensure compliance with California’s workplace violence prevention standards. Don’t wait until it’s too late – let us help you navigate the complexities of HR law and safeguard your business for the future.