Workplace Violence Prevention Plans are now required for California businesses

By Jaimee K. Wellerstein, Esq. and Michael J. Bruskin, Esq.

In 2023, Governor Newsom signed SB553, codified as California Labor Code §6401.9, a first-of-its-kind general workplace violence prevention law that applies across all industries and to nearly all employers with operations in California. Under the new law, Covered Employers must have workplace violence prevention plans (WVPPs), training, and more in place by July 1, 2024. These requirements, as detailed below, will be enforced by California’s Occupational Safety & Health Division (Cal/OSHA). Cal/OSHA has recently provided an FAQ HERE for further guidance.

Covered Employers

The new law applies to almost all California employers with a few limited exceptions: (1) employers already covered by California’s existing healthcare workplace violence prevention standard, (2) employees teleworking from a location of their own choice not under the employer’s control, (3) places of employment that are not accessible to the public and where there are fewer than 10 employees working at any given time that have a compliant Injury and Illness Prevention Program, and (4) facilities operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and other law enforcement agencies.

Written Requirements

Section 6401.9 mandates that all Covered Employers establish and maintain a WVPP with specific requirements and procedures to follow. This WVPP must be in writing and available to all employees and authorized representatives at all times.

The WVPP must include all of the following:

  • Names or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the WVPP;
  • Effective procedures allowing for active involvement of employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the WVPP;
  • Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the WVPP with other employers, when applicable;
  • Effective procedures to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report;
  • Procedures to ensure compliance from all employees, including supervisors;
  • Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters, including how an employee can report a violence concern as well as how those concerns will be investigated and/or corrected;
  • Procedures to respond to workplace violence emergencies;
  • Procedures to develop and provide required training under Section 6401.9;
  • Procedures to identify, evaluate, and correct workplace violence hazards in a timely manner;
  • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation; and
  • Procedures to review the effectiveness of the WVPP periodically and, if workplace violence incident occurs, how to revise the WVPP as needed.

The WVPP may be a stand-alone document or may be included as part of a broader Injury & Illness Prevention Plan, as long as it meets all of the statutory requirements in either format.

Required Training

Covered Employers are required to train all employees effectively and cover a variety of topics, including how to participate in the development of the WVPP, required definitions, how to report incidents of workplace violence, information about job-specific hazards, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, how to use the violence incident log, and how to report incidents or concerns without fear of reprisal.

Employers must provide employees with initial training when the plan is first established, annually thereafter, and when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified, as well as when changes are made to the WVPP. The training must provide an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable about the plan. Training logs must be accurate and up to date.

Violent Incident Log

Much like the workplace injury logs required for Injury and Illness Prevention plans, the new law requires an incident log for each incident of workplace violence that occurs in the workplace. This includes incidents that do not result in an injury. The log entries must include:

  • The date, time, and location of the incident;
  • The type of workplace violence incident under the definitions of incident types used in the statute;
  • A detailed description of the incident, including who committed the violence, circumstances at the time of the incident, and where it occurred;
  • Any consequences of the incident, including law enforcement involvement and actions taken to protect employees from a threat and from any hazards identified as a result; and
  • Information about who completed the log entry.

Record Keeping

Section 6401.9 requires that all employers maintain their training records for a minimum of one year. Records of workplace violence hazard identification and correction, investigations of workplace violence incidents, and incident logs must be maintained for no less than five (5) years. These records must be available to Cal/OSHA upon request. They must also be available to employees and their representatives for examination or copying upon request within 15 calendar days of receiving such a request.

Cal/OSHA’s Template Plan

Cal/OSHA recently released a template plan (HERE). The benefit of this template is that it clearly lays out all the components necessary to comply with the new law. That said, the model plan was written for a wide array of employers and not for any particular industry. In addition, each employer must customize the plan to each workplace with input from employees.

Employers should also consider that Cal/OSHA’s template tends to be more favorable toward employees.

Employer Takeaway

Because of the extensive requirements, California employers should begin work on their WVPP as soon as possible to ensure they meet the July 1, 2024 deadline. This should include both drafting their plan and identifying a plan administrator, as well as assessing existing hazards and preparing appropriate training for employees.

If you have any questions about how this new law may affect your business or need assistance preparing compliant policies or revising your practices, please contact your attorneys at Bradley, Gmelich + Wellerstein LLP. We are here to help.

Jaimee K Wellerstein About the Author

Jaimee K. Wellerstein, Esq. is a Partner and the firm’s Employment Team Head. Representing employers in all aspects of employment law, Ms. Wellerstein collaborates with her clients to develop proactive business and legal strategies to try to avoid workplace conflict and employment disputes. She provides legal advice and counsel to numerous businesses, including conducting individualized training programs for both management and employees. Ms. Wellerstein performs internal audits of her client’s employment practices to ensure compliance with the rapidly-changing world of employment laws and guides investigations of employee allegations regarding harassment, discrimination, and employee misconduct.

When litigation is unavoidable, Jaimee K. Wellerstein aggressively defends her clients against employment law claims in the state and federal courts, as well as at administrative hearings, arbitrations, and mediations. Having defended numerous representative and individual lawsuits on behalf of her clients, Ms. Wellerstein is a skilled litigator and negotiator with a broad spectrum of experience upon which to draw.

A frequent speaker on numerous topics, including employment law and contract law, Ms. Wellerstein regularly conducts training seminars and programs for managers and employees in all areas of employment practices and policies.

About the Author

Michael J. Bruskin, Esq. is Special Counsel for the firm’s Employment Team Advice & Counsel Practice Group. Advising employers in all aspects of employment law, Mr. Bruskin develops deep relationships and working knowledge of his clients’ operational preferences and devises forward-thinking strategies to align business needs with risk mitigation and legal compliance. Mr. Bruskin performs internal audits of his client’s employment practices to ensure compliance with the rapidly changing world of employment laws and guides their employment and business strategies to create successful and lasting relationships with their employees.