What Employers Should Know About New Workplace Violence Rule

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In Episode 188 of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Associate General Counsel Matthew Roberts sits down with Bianca Saad, CalChamber general counsel, labor and employment, to discuss the requirements of California’s new workplace violence standard, SB 553 (Cortese; D-San Jose).

Signed this year by Governor Gavin Newsom, SB 553 creates workplace violence requirements that include training and logging of workplace violence incidents.

Effective July 1, 2024, California employers will need to create, maintain and implement a written workplace violence prevention plan that includes 13 different requirements, Saad explains. These requirements include identifying the personnel who will be responsible for implementing the plan; describing how incidents are going to be reported; and setting aside and establishing procedures for post-incident reporting and investigation.

In addition to creating the plan, employers will need to create effective training on the written plan itself, and the training must involve all their employees.

Employers also will need to create a workplace violence incident log, which should include certain required components, whenever workplace violence takes place. In addition to the log, there are several record-keeping requirements pertaining to employee training, Saad says.

SB 553 will apply to most California employers. Exempted from these rules are:

• Health care employers. Health care employers must abide by other workplace violence prevention rules, set in 2017. The standard that applies to the health care worksites has more requirements, so health care employers should check with their legal counsel to determine which workplace violence prevention standard they need to follow.

• Worksites with fewer than 10 workers present at any given time and that are not accessible to the public.

• Workers who are working from a worksite of their choice that is not under the control of the employer. This may include working from home or choosing to work at a coffee shop or work sharing office.

Workplace Violence Incident Log

Many employers are familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace injury Log 300, but how is the SB 553 workplace violence log different, Roberts asks Saad?

She replies that the workplace violence incident log is going to be triggered when there is an incident of workplace violence. The log itself has nine legally required components, which includes things like a detailed description of the event, the type of workplace violence and the type of person who committed the violence.

One important note: the employer should refrain from using any identifying information such as names, email addresses, or phone numbers.

“So even for that employee who is a victim of the violence, you are not going to include any of their personal information about them on the log,” Saad says.

What Is ‘Workplace Violence’?

Since SB 553’s requirements kick in when there is an incident of workplace violence, how is the term defined, Roberts asks?

Workplace violence, Saad says, is defined as any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment. It can include, but is not limited to, things such as the threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, psychological trauma or stress—regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.

“Injury is not required to trigger workplace violence, which I think is a key component of all of this for employers to keep in mind and be aware of. It can also include an incident that’s involving a threat or a use of a firearm or some other dangerous weapon. And again, that’s regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury,” she explains.

An example of this, Roberts says, is if someone robs a business with a weapon. They may say, “Give me all your money,” and the employee gives over the money and the robber leaves. Even if no one is actually harmed, this event is still a “workplace violence incident” under SB 553’s rules.

Required Training

The training required by SB 553 focuses largely on the workplace violence prevention plan, which contains 13 different requirements. These requirements include things such as the reporting mechanism (how is the employee going to report incidents), detailing who will be responsible for receiving complaints, and who will be responsible for identifying and mitigating workplace hazards.

The training will need to be communicated effectively to employees based on their literacy and language. Saad explains that if an employee speaks and reads only in another language, then the employer will need to make sure training materials are available in their language.

Although there is no minimum duration required for the training, employers must ensure it is effective and covers all of SB 553’s required components. Moreover, the person conducting the training should be familiar with the prevention plan, so they are able to answer questions during the required interactive question-and-answer component of the training, Saad says.

CalChamber Resources

The CalChamber previously held a live webinar on SB 553’s requirements and the webinar recording is available for purchase.

The webinar dives into specific requirements and gives answers to almost 150 questions that employers and human resources professionals asked during the live event, Saad says.

Purchase of the training includes a workplace violence incident log and checklist. For more information, click here.