BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe

Calif. employers unprepared for workplace violence law face risks


The clock is ticking for employers in California that must have in place a customized and comprehensive anti-violence plan by July 1, and insurance experts say many are behind in their preparations, a shortcoming that could result in fines and lawsuits.

“What we're seeing from our clients, especially in the run-up to 1st of July, is that the majority of them just aren't prepared,” said Lucy Straker, Charleston, South Carolina-based focus group leader for political violence and deadly weapons protection at Beazley PLC.

S.B. 553, signed into law in late 2023, requires most employers to “establish, implement, and maintain, at all times in all of the employer’s facilities, a workplace violence prevention plan for purposes of protecting employees and other personnel from aggressive and violent behavior at the workplace.” 

The law defines workplace violence as that which includes, but is not limited to, the “threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.” The law includes requirements on training, record-keeping, escape routes and investigations, and it calls on employers to create plans that are custom to unique risks.

“Employers in California are familiar with these kinds of practices yet (what is) making this one a little bit different is the way the statute talks about tailoring the plan,” said Greg McKenna, Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based national practice leader for the public sector at Gallagher Bassett Services Inc.

The measure calls for employers to work with their employees and other industry experts to gain insight into any risks for violence that are unique to their business and various worksites, which “is going to take time,” Mr. McKenna said. “The question is going to be how much did the employer adhere to the spirit of the law by tailoring the plans or conducting training that's related to the various exposures that their own employees are supposed to be telling them about,” he said.

Renata Elias, Dallas-based senior vice president with Marsh Advisory, part of Marsh LLC, said a template provided by the California Department of Industrial Relations is just a launching point and that companies must “customize it so that it matches their operations and their processes.” She added that many companies will likely continue working on the plan past the deadline.

Employers that “think that what they might have in place is already robust enough” will likely fall short, Ms. Straker said. “When you speak to established companies that have existing plans in place, when you highlight what California is requiring, it's almost like they're shocked because it is so detail-oriented” and “overwhelming,” she said.

Experts say it’s unclear how stringent Cal/OSHA will be on enforcement. Under the law, fines start at $18,000 per violation and can rise to $25,000.

Jeff Adelson, a partner with Irvine, California-based Bober, Peterson & Koby LLP, said employers should look beyond the risk of fines. If an injured worker or surviving family member sues the employer after an incident it’s likely exclusive remedy would be challenged for noncompliant employers, he said.

And under California law an employer that is found to have caused an employee's injury by its “serious and willful misconduct” must pay a penalty equal to half of all benefits paid under workers comp. An incident that results in multiple casualties at a worksite without an anti-violence plan in place under the new law “can bankrupt an employer,” Mr. Adelson said.

Ms. Straker said noncompliance makes for a “negligent” employer, and she is advising clients that are behind to take steps to prove they are working toward compliance and to keep records of such.

“If something happens you can demonstrate that you have been taking the necessary steps to make yourself compliant,” she said. “You want to be seen as doing the right thing.”