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California Enacts Law to Prevent Workplace Violence

A man is holding his fist in front of a brick wall.

​California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a new law to require employers to adopt workplace violence prevention plans, maintain records of any threats or incidents of workplace violence, and provide effective training to workers on workplace violence.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) "is currently pursuing steps for adopting a similar standard for health care and social assistance industries nationally. The new California law is the first to apply such requirements more broadly to include nearly all California employers," said Adam Fiss, an attorney with Littler in San Jose, Calif.

California employers must establish a written workplace violence prevention plan that includes:

  • The name and/or job title of the person responsible for implementing the program.
  • Procedures for the employer to receive and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.
  • Information about how an employee can report a violent incident, threat or other concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal.
  • Methods 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.
  • Information about how employee concerns will be investigated and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation.
  • Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing and implementing the violence prevention plan.
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the violence prevention plan and revise it as needed.

Employers should train workers on "red-flag behaviors" and ways to de-escalate heated situations, said Kacey Riccomini, an attorney with Thompson Coburn in Los Angeles.

Employers must keep a log of all reports of violence or threats and what the employer did about it, starting on July 1, 2024. The log should not contain any personally identifiable information.

These records must be maintained for at least five years and presented to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) upon request. Employers can be fined if they don't keep the log properly.

"It will give California employers a chance to look at trends in their own organization," said Marisa Randazzo, executive director of threat management at Ontic, an Austin, Texas-based provider of software that companies use to manage threats and mitigate risks. "It's going to be really important for long-term violence prevention efforts."

If a credible threat of violence occurs, a supervisor or union representative may apply for a temporary restraining order on behalf of an employee without using the employee's name in the report. That provision is slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

The new law does not apply to employers already covered by California's existing workplace violence prevention standard for the health care industry, employees teleworking from a location of their own choice that is not under the employer's control, and worksites that have fewer than 10 employees and are not accessible to the public, Fiss said.

There's a higher rate of workplace violence in health care facilities, late-night convenience stores, taxis, ride-hailing services, and customer service offices where there might be customers angered over something like utility bills or parking tickets, Randazzo said. Establishments where alcohol is served, such as restaurants, bars, and casinos, have more risk of workplace violence, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

There were 392 workplace homicides in 2020, and there were 37,060 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The five occupational groups with the most workplace homicides in 2020 were sales, transportation and material moving, management, construction and extraction, and production, the BLS noted.


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