Legal Alerts

Workplace Violence Prevention Program Liability Headed Your Way

San Francisco, Calif. (March 28, 2024) - California employers should be aware of and prepare for the implementation of Senate Bill 553, Occupational Safety: workplace violence: restraining orders and workplace violence prevention plan. This bill continues to forge the way towards hefty employer obligations in the Golden State, requiring that employers prepare, implement and train employees on detailed violence prevention plans by July 1, 2024. Are we surprised? Sadly, no.

Cal/OSHA has been headed in this direction for some time. On April 1, 2017, Cal/OSHA’s General Industry Safety Orders 3342 took effect, requiring healthcare facilities throughout the state to take an active and detailed approach to identifying, reporting, and preventing violent incidents against their employees. Most recently, in June 2023, Cal/OSHA cited two employers in Half Moon Bay, California, following an investigation into workplace violence that killed seven agricultural workers on January 23, 2023. While employees were killed as a result of an active shooter incident, the two employers were cited for 41 safety violations in the aggregate, including the failure to address previous incidents of workplace violence and the failure to have a plan or procedure in place to immediately notify employees of an active shooter threat and instructions on seeking shelter.

Following this aggressive approach to employer liability, in September 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 553 into law, adding Section 6401.9 to the California Labor Code. Effective July 2024 covered employers must implement a complex web of workplace violence prevention requirements, which will be enforced by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Who is a covered employer under this law? This law applies broadly to all employers except: 1) healthcare facilities covered by California's existing workplace prevention standard for the healthcare industry; 2) facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; 3) certain law enforcement agencies; 4) all companies to the extent they employ teleworkers; and 5) workplaces that are not accessible to the public and have fewer than 10 employees working at a location at a given time.

What requirements are imposed on employers under this law? Employers must create a workplace violence prevention program tailored to each specific workplace. The program must identify company personnel responsible for the safety plan, identify and speak to existing workplace hazards, implement an active incident reporting structure (including an emergency alert system), include evacuation plans, detail procedures for post-incident response and investigations, and adopt a system for the employer’s annual review of any implemented program. In addition to numerous other obligations, employers must train their employees on this program annually. 

As of January 1, 2025, Senate Bill SB 553 also authorizes the collective bargaining representative of an employee to seek a temporary restraining order and an order on behalf of employees related to a workplace violence incident.

Next steps for California employers? The important take away is that employees should reach out to their legal departments and/or their Lewis Brisbois contact to ensure compliance with this new law in advance of the July 1 implementation deadline. As always, our Labor & Employment team is available and ready to assist you with the creation of this program and the training requirements under SB 553.


Sara Shok, Associate


Steven Gatley, Partner and National Chair of OSHA Practice

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