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California Adopts New Workplace Violence Prevention Law
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Governor Newsom has signed California's SB 553, which will require almost all employers to take certain steps to prevent workplace violence. Among other measures, SB 553 requires California employers to adopt comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans by July 1, 2024. The plans may be stand-alone documents or incorporated as new sections of the workplace's Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

The workplace violence prevention plans must include:

  • The names or job titles of employees responsible for implementing the plan.
  • Procedures to obtain the involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan.
  • Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the plan and training.
  • Effective procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes a report.
  • Effective procedures to ensure that employees comply with the plan.
  • Effective procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace matters, including how to report an incident, threat, or other concern, and how concerns will be investigated.
  • Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, including but not limited to: effective means for alerting employees to violent emergencies, evacuation or sheltering plans, and how to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to violence emergencies.
  • Procedures to develop and provide required training.
  • Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including but not limited to scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions.
  • Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards.
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan, including at least annual review.

SB 553 also included additional requirements for employers, who must:

  • Maintain a violent incident log for every workplace violence incident and track post-incident investigations.
  • Maintain employee training records.
  • Maintain records of violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction.
  • Make certain records available to employees, employee representatives, or government entities upon request.

SB 553 also amends the state's Code of Civil Procedure to make it easier to seek restraining orders for workplace violence threats. Previously, only employers were authorized to seek restraining orders on behalf of employees facing workplace-based violence. Effective January 1, 2025, Section 527.8 of the Code of Civil Procedure has been expanded to allow a labor union representative to petition for a restraining order on behalf of an employee. The new law also allows the employee to remain anonymous.

For the past six years, Cal/OSHA had been developing a general industry workplace violence prevention standard, but the agency never moved towards a formal proposal of the standard. Now, with the passage of SB 553, Cal/OSHA must propose and finalize a workplace violence prevention regulation by the end of 2026. That regulatory standard must include, at a minimum, the measures established by SB 553, and can include any additional requirements that the agency deems necessary and appropriate. In that sense, SB 553 serves as an interim measure that will be in place until a Cal/OSHA regulatory standard is finalized.

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