On September 30, 2023, Governor Newsom signed into law SB553, which established new workplace violence prevention standards in California. The law requires employers to establish, implement and maintain a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan either as a stand-alone document or incorporated into their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).
Workplace violence is defined as any act of violence that occurs in a place of employment and includes verbal and written threats of violence and incidents involving the use of a firearm or dangerous weapon regardless of whether an employee sustains an injury. However, the definition also includes threats against an employee that “result in or have a high likelihood of resulting in injury, psychological trauma or stress”, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) is required to be available and easily accessible to employees and authorized employee representatives. The plan is required to be specific to the hazards for each work area and operation.
Requirements That Must Be Included in a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan:
- The names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan.
- Effective procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan, including but not limited to participation in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, designing and implementing training, and in reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents.
- Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the plan, training, and ensuring that employees comply with the plan.
- Effective procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
- Effective disciplinary actions to ensure employee compliance with safe work practices.
- Effective procedures to communicate with employees regarding how to report an incident, threat, or other concern and how concerns will be investigated.
- Effective procedures to communicate to employees how concerns will be investigated and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken.
- Effective procedures for obtaining assistance from appropriate emergency and law enforcement agencies.
- 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 violent emergencies.
- Effective procedures to correct workplace violence hazards in a timely manner, including, but not limited to scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices. Inspections are required to be conducted when the plan is first established, after each workplace violence incident, and when the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.
- Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and to revise the plan as needed, including but not limited to procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in reviewing the plan.
- The plan is required to be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace incident.
- Employers would be required to make available individual trauma counseling to all employees affected by a workplace violence incident.
Record Incidents of Violence:
Employers are required to record every workplace incident in a violent incident log. The information must come from an employee who witnessed the incident, other witness statements or investigative findings. No personal identifying information may be included in the log. Additionally, log entries must include the following:
- Date, time, and location of the incident.
- Detailed description of the incident.
- Classification of who committed the violence (co-worker, supervisor, customer, family, friend, stranger, etc.)
- Type of violence including whether it was a physical attack or threat of physical force, whether weapons or other objects were involved, or whether it was a sexual assault.
- Consequences of the incident such as whether security or law enforcement was contacted and whether actions were taken to protect employees from a continuing threat.
Employers must retain the log for 5 years. Employees are entitled to view and copy the log within 15 calendar days of a request.
Employers must provide employees with initial training when the Plan is first established and annually thereafter. Training is also required for all new employees, employees who
are given new assignments, and all employees when a new hazard is presented by newly introduced substances, procedures, processes, or equipment. The training must review the following topics:
- The Plan and how employees can obtain a free copy.
- How to report workplace violence hazards, incidents or concerns without fear of retaliation.
- Workplace hazards specific to a particular employee’s duties.
- Corrective measures the employer has implemented.
- How to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence.
- Strategies to avoid physical harm.
- Information about the violent incident log and how employees can obtain a copy.
- Employers are required to keep records of each workplace violence hazard as well as the identification, evaluation and correction of each workplace hazard for a minimum of five years.
- Training records must be saved for a minimum of one year.
- Violent incident logs and records of workplace investigations must be retained for a minimum of one year.
Temporary Restraining Orders for Workplace Violence:
SB553 also amends California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.8 which currently authorizes an employer whose employee has suffered workplace violence to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the employee’s behalf.
Beginning January 1, 2025, Section 527.8 will also authorize a collective bargaining agent to seek the same type of restraining order on the employee’s behalf. Additionally, the amended law will allow the employee to remain anonymous.
Cal/OSHA will enforce the new law through its standard inspection, citation and penalty framework. Depending on the nature of an alleged violation, an employer may face fines from $18,000 (initially) to $25,000 for violations classified as serious.
Cal/OSHA will also require employers deemed out of compliance to abate alleged violations to Cal/OSHA’s satisfaction – potentially including changes to an employer’s policies and procedures.
This content was provided by WPCCA legal counsel and is for general informational purposes only. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel for company specific legal advice.