California has long been at the forefront of enacting progressive legislation, especially when it comes to labor and workplace safety. One of the latest additions to this repertoire is Senate Bill 553 (SB553), aimed at preventing workplace violence. While the intentions behind this law are laudable, there are a number of potential drawbacks and costs associated with its implementation.

SB553, recently signed into law by Governor Newsom, is designed to enhance workplace safety by requiring employers to establish comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. The law mandates various training requirements, risk assessments, and reporting mechanisms to mitigate the risk of violence in the workplace. California employers must design and implement workplace violence prevention plans (“WVPP”) by July 1, 2024.

On the surface, this seems like a commendable effort to protect employees.  However, the legislation will undoubtedly prove to be a costly drag on businesses with uncertain, or at least unproven, benefits.

1. Compliance Burden

One of the primary criticisms of SB553 is the substantial compliance burden it places on businesses, particularly smaller ones. Implementing comprehensive prevention programs, conducting risk assessments, and providing training can be costly and time-consuming. Smaller businesses with limited resources may find it challenging to meet these requirements, potentially diverting valuable time and money from other critical aspects of their operations.

2. One-Size-Fits-All Approach

SB553 adopts a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not be suitable for all businesses. The law does not consider variations in industry, company size, or geographical location. What works for a large tech company in Silicon Valley may not be feasible for a small retail store in a rural area. This rigid approach could lead to inefficiencies and hinder businesses’ ability to tailor violence prevention measures to their specific needs.

3. Potential for Overreporting

The law requires employers to report workplace violence incidents to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). While transparency is vital, the reporting requirements may lead to overreporting of minor incidents. This could overwhelm DOSH with unnecessary paperwork and distract from addressing more severe cases of workplace violence.

4. Ambiguity in Definitions

The law’s definitions of workplace violence and appropriate preventive measures are somewhat vague. The lack of clear guidance could lead to confusion among employers, potentially resulting in misinterpretations and ineffective prevention strategies. Without clear and precise definitions, businesses may struggle to comply adequately with the law.

While the intentions behind California’s SB553, the Workplace Violence Prevention Program law, are undoubtedly noble, there are legitimate concerns regarding its implementation. The compliance burden, one-size-fits-all approach, potential for overreporting, unintended consequences, and ambiguity in definitions all raise valid questions about the law’s effectiveness and impact on businesses. If you need any assistance with employment policies, the NavBat team is here to help.