On September 30, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB-553 into law. SB-553 is the nation’s first workplace violence prevention law.  The law adds a new section 6401.9 to the California Labor Code, which will be implemented by Cal/OSHA.  The new law requires that employers an effective plan aimed at preventing workplace violence in place by July 1, 2024.  The plan may be incorporated into an existing Injury, Illness, and Prevention Plan and does not apply to workers teleworking form a location of the employee’s choice or employers already regulated by existing standards for the healthcare industry.

The workplace violence prevention plan must be in writing, be available to employees, and include the following:

  • Names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan
  • Methods the employer will use to implement the plan
  • Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan
  • Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers, when applicable
  • 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
  • Procedures to ensure that supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the plan
  • Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters and how their reported matter will be investigated
  • Means to alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of workplace violence emergencies
  • Evacuation or sheltering plans
  • Procedures for identifying workplace violence hazards
  • Procedures to investigate and correct past incidents

In addition to the workplace violence prevention plan, employers must keep a log of all workplace incidents. The log must include the following:

  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • The workplace violence type(s) involved in the incident (as defined in the statute)
  • A detailed description of the incident
  • Details regarding who committed the violence, including whether the perpetrator was a client or customer, family or friend of a client or customer, stranger with criminal intent, coworker, supervisor or manager, partner or spouse, parent or relative, or other perpetrator
  • A description of the circumstances at the time of the incident, including, but not limited to, whether the employee was completing usual job duties, working in poorly lit areas, etc.
  • The type of incident, including, but not limited to, whether it involved any of the following:
    • Physical attack without a weapon, including, but not limited to, biting, choking, grabbing, hair pulling, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, pulling, scratching, or spitting
    • A threat of physical force
    • Sexual assault or threat
    • An animal attack
  • The consequences of the incident, including, but not limited to whether law enforcement was contacted, and actions taken to protect employees from a continued threat.

Employers should ensure that the log does not include personal identifying information for any persons involved. All records including the workplace incident log, training records, workplace violence investigations, and records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction, all must be maintained for 5 years.

Training must be provided to employees, including on the employer’s plan, the rule’s requirements and definitions, how to report incidents, workplace violence hazards specific to jobs and associated corrective measures, the violent incident log, and opportunity for Q&A.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8 was also amended to allow employers to seek restraining orders to prevent workplace violence where necessary.