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Calif. About to Pass Workplace Violence - Active Shooter - Shoplifting Bill
Bill to Stop Employees Confronting Shoplifters Passed by California Senate

CA Senator Cortese’s Bill 553 to Prevent Workplace Violence Clears Key Assembly Committee

The Assembly Judiciary Committee passed legislation on Wednesday that helps keep employees safe at work. SB 553 by Senator Dave Cortese would establish a new baseline of workplace violence prevention standards.

“After a gunman shot nine workers at a Valley Transportation Agency railyard, I walked through the blood-soaked crime scene in my district. I’ve worked with VTA to implement significant workplace protections since then, but California must do everything needed to protect workers and the public, including retail customers,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose). “SB 553 will give workers the training and knowledge on how to respond to workplace violence. The bill is targeted at the types of violent outbreaks that have spiked in recent years, and it refers at-risk workers toward behavioral health support to prevent tragedy.”

In response to the VTA massacre, Senator Cortese helped establish a “Worker Wellness Center” to support grieving VTA individuals and families. Then last year, Governor Newsom signed Senator Cortese’s SB 1294, which established a plan to expand those transit worker wellness centers across the state. As an important next step, SB 553 creates six enforceable protections for employees; they are listed below.
The protections in the bill are similar to protocols already in place in some California middle schools. That is to say that under SB 553, workers would be provided with workplace violence prevention standards similar to those already afforded to 7th and 8th graders.

Among other provisions, SB 553 states the need for shoplifter training, acknowledging that certain work environments may require security personnel. Businesses would have the discretion to decide what the training would involve. The bill does not require businesses to make any purchases, including safety equipment like security cameras and flood lights.

According to the California Retailers Association, most retail establishments already prevent ordinary workers from confronting shoplifters. SB 553 codifies that best practice into law by prohibiting employers from forcing non-security employees to enter confrontational situations with intruders engaged in criminal activity who may be armed. The bill draws a clear distinction between security and non-security personnel.

Assaults in retail establishments rose during the pandemic, according to a 2022 analysis by the New York Times. The analysis found that assaults in grocery stores grew by 63 percent from 2018 to 2020, and assaults in convenience stores grew by 75 percent.

Senator Cortese’s SB 553 would:

1. Require employers to maintain a Violent Incident Log of all violent incidents against employees including post-incident investigations and response;

2. Require all employers to provide active shooter training;

3. Require retail employers to provide shoplifter training;

4. Prohibit employers from maintaining policies that require non-security personnel to confront suspected active shoplifters;

5. Include, as part of the existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), an assessment of staffing levels as a cause for workplace violence incidents;

6. Requires employers to include an evaluation of environmental risk factors in their Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.

7. Allow an employee representative to be a petitioner for a workplace violence restraining order;

8. Have plans available for referral of at-risk workers to wellness programs for behavioral health support.

Additional Testimony for SB 553 from the July 5 Assembly Judiciary Committee:

Samantha Webster, a grocery worker at Safeway in Hercules, Ca:

“One day I saw a man stealing cheese and other items,” “I went up to him, per Albertsons’ shoplifter policy, and asked if he needed help. The customer then pulled up his shirt to show a gun and told me to back off. I was so scared that I wouldn’t make it home to my little boy. Workers like myself didn’t sign up to get threatened to be shot. We should not have to wake up each morning afraid that we will be assaulted or killed while at work. We have families. We are someone's daughter, someone’s son, someone’s mother or someone’s father and we deserve to be valued as much as everyone else.”

Steve Jovel, President of Local 1101 at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and President of AFSCME Council 57:

“In May 2021, AFSCME lost a union brother in the Bay Area’s deadliest mass shooting. A gunman who worked at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) opened fire in his workplace, killing nine of his coworkers before turning his gun on himself. We are not under any false pretenses that this bill will prevent all workplace violence, but we believe that SB 553 will give employers and employees the tools to keep themselves safe from assaults and more serious tragedies.”

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Bill to Stop Employees Confronting Shoplifters Passed by California Senate

Bill Text - SB-553 Occupational safety: workplace violence...