On September 20, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 553 (“SB 553”) into law, which requires covered California employers to take steps to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Notably, SB 553 adds Section 6401.9 to the California Labor Code, which, effective July 1, 2024, requires covered employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan that must include, among other things, the following:
The names or job titles of the individuals responsible for implementing and maintaining the workplace violence prevention plan.
Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing, implementing, and reviewing the workplace violence prevention plan, including their participation in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, designing and implementing training, and reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents.
Methods the employer will use to coordinate the implementation of the workplace violation prevention plan among employees in the same facility or department.
Procedures for obtaining assistance from the appropriate law enforcement agency during all work shifts, including a written policy prohibiting the employer from disallowing or taking punitive or retaliatory action against an employee for seeking assistance or intervention from law enforcement or emergency services.
Procedures for the employer to respond to workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against employees who make reports of workplace violence.
Procedures for ensuring compliance with the workplace violence prevention plan.
Procedures for communicating with employees regarding workplace violence matters.
Procedures for developing and providing training on the employer’s workplace violence prevention plan.
Assessment procedures to identify and evaluate risk factors for workplace violence.
Procedures for correcting workplace violence hazards in a timely manner.
Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
Maintaining policies prohibiting the employer from requiring employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.
In addition to developing and implementing a workplace violence prevention plan, covered employers must also “record information in a violent incident log about every incident, post-incident, response, and workplace violation injury investigation” performed in accordance with the workplace violence prevention plan. The log must include information, including, but not limited to: (1) the date, time, and location of the incident; (2) a detailed description of the incident; (3) a classification of who committed the violence; (4) a classification of the circumstances at the time of the incident, including whether the employee was completing usual job duties; (5) a classification of the location of the violence incident; (6) the type of incident, including whether it involved physical, verbal, sexual, or animal attacks; (7) consequences of the incident, such as medical treatment needed and whether security or law enforcement was contacted; and (8) contact information for the individual completing the violent incident log.
The law covers all California employers except health care facilities, service categories, and operations covered by Section 3342 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that are in compliance with Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, law enforcement agencies that are a “department or participating department” as defined in Section 1001 of Title 11 of the California Code of Regulations and in compliance with Section 3203, employees teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice which is not under the control of the employer, and places of employment with less than 10 employees working at any given time and that are not accessible to the public and in compliance with Section 3203.
California employers subject to the law must also review and update their workplace violence prevention plans on an annual basis and provide an evaluation of the incidents that occurred and maintain records of workplace violence hazards previously identified.
Given the extensive and detailed requirements under California Labor Code section 6401.9, California employers should take active steps to ensure they have a compliant workplace violence prevention plan in place before July 1, 2024. Even if your workplace is not covered by the new law, it is a good idea to have a workplace violence prevention plan in place by next July, because most other employers in the state will have one and if a claim is made, you want to be able to point to a policy. Contact your favorite CDF attorney for more guidance.