Governor Gavin Newsom officially signed Senate Bill No. 553 ("SB 553") into law on September 20, 2023. This legislation mandates that covered California employers, including both school and community college districts (“Districts”), must implement measures to both prevent and address instances of workplace violence. Noteworthy is the addition of Section 6401.9 to the California Labor Code through SB 553, making it mandatory for covered employers to establish a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024.
The workplace violence prevention plan must include the following:
- Names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan. If there are multiple persons responsible for the plan, their roles shall be clearly described.
- Effective procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan, including, but not limited to, through their participation in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, in designing and implementing training, and in reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents.
- Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the plan with other employers, when applicable, to ensure that those employers and employees understand their respective roles, as provided in the plan. These methods shall ensure that all employees are provided the training required by subdivision (e) and that workplace violence incidents involving any employee are reported, investigated, and recorded.
- 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 procedures to ensure that supervisory and nonsupervisory employees comply with the plan in a manner consistent with paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.
- Effective procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including, but not limited to, both of the following:
- How an employee can report a violent incident, threat, or other workplace violence concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.
- How employee concerns will be investigated as part of the employer's responsibility in complying with subparagraph (I), and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken as part of the employer's responsibility in complying with subparagraph (J).
- Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
- Effective means to alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of workplace violence emergencies.
- Evacuation or sheltering plans that are appropriate and feasible for the worksite.
- How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to workplace violence emergencies, if any, security personnel, if any, and law enforcement.
- Procedures to develop and provide the training required in subdivision (e).
- Procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards, including, but not limited to, scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices and employee reports and concerns. Inspections shall be conducted when the plan is first established, after each workplace violence incident, and whenever the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.
- Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards identified and evaluated in subparagraph (I) in a timely manner consistent with paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 3203 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.
- Procedures for post incident response and investigation.
- Procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and 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 shall be reviewed at least annually, when a deficiency is observed or becomes apparent, and after a workplace violence incident.
- Procedures or other information required by the division and standards board as being necessary and appropriate to protect the health and safety of employees, pursuant to subdivision (h).
In addition to formulating and executing a plan for preventing workplace violence, employers covered by this requirement are obligated to maintain a comprehensive violent incident log. This log should document details related to every incident, post-incident response, and workplace violation injury investigation conducted in adherence to the established workplace violence prevention plan.
Essential information to be documented in the log includes, but is not limited to:
- The date, time, and location of the incident;
- A detailed description of the incident;
- A classification of who committed the violence;
- A classification of the circumstances at the time of the incident, including whether the employee was completing usual job duties;
- A classification of the location of the violence incident;
- The type of incident, including whether it involved physical, verbal, sexual, or animal attacks;
- Consequences of the incident, such as medical treatment needed and whether security or law enforcement was contacted; and
- Contact details for the individual responsible for completing the violent incident log.
The statutory provisions outlined in subdivision (e) of Section 6401.9 emphasize the obligation of employers to conduct effective training for employees, tailored to their educational level, literacy, and language. The training must include initial sessions upon the establishment of the workplace violence prevention plan and recur annually thereafter. Training must cover essential aspects such as understanding the employer's plan, reporting incidents without fear of reprisal, recognizing workplace violence hazards, and knowing corrective measures and strategies for prevention. Additionally, employers must provide additional training when new or previously unrecognized violence hazards emerge or when modifications are made to the existing plan, with a focus on addressing these specific changes. The training sessions must facilitate interactive questions and answers with knowledgeable individuals about the employer's plan, fostering a comprehensive understanding among employees.
Districts not in compliance with SB 553 may face citations and civil penalties from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. To avoid such consequences, it is imperative that employers keep their workplace violence prevention plan current, regularly review it, and effectively communicate it to all employees. Active monitoring of the implementation of these new obligations is essential, requiring the allocation of resources to support a safe and violence-free work environment.
For more information on SB 553 and its impacts on your district, please contact our office. Parker & Covert LLP has offices located in southern and northern California. We invite you to visit our website at www.ParkerCovert.com.
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