California employers have long been required to have in place Injury, Illness & Prevention Programs, which are intended to help enhance employee safety in the workplace. On or before July 1, 2024, most California employers must establish a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) in addition to their Injury, Illness & Prevention Programs. Employers also need to provide training on their WVPP and keep prescribed records. The new law can be found in new Labor Code section 6401.9. The new WVPP focuses on addressing the risk of workplace violence. 

Covered Employers

The new law exempts the following employers, employees, and workplaces:

  • Health care employers;
  • Remote employees who work at a place not under the control of the employer; and
  • Workplaces inaccessible to the public with fewer than 10 employees working on location at any given time.

This new law covers all other employers. As the exemptions are vague in many respects, employers should consult with counsel to determine whether they are exempt from the law.

The Prevention Plan

Covered employers must implement a WVPP by July 1, 2024. Employers may choose to incorporate the plan as a section of their Injury, Illness & Prevention Program or maintain it as a separate document.

To comply with this new law, the WVPP must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Include the names or job titles of the people responsible for the plan’s implementation.
  • Permit employees and their representatives to participate in the development and implementation of the plan.
  • Include procedures for
    • Accepting and responding to reports of workplace violence and prohibiting employee retaliation;
    • Communicating workplace violence matters to employees;
    • Responding to actual and potential emergencies;
    • Developing and implementing the required training;
    • Identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards;
    • Performance of post-incident response and investigations; and
    • Reviewing the effectiveness of the plan.

Cal/OSHA is charged with developing standards consistent with these requirements no later than Dec. 1, 2025, so employers may need to comply with additional regulations moving forward.

Required Training

In addition to drafting a WVPP, covered employers must train their employees on the WVPP. Employers must provide training when the plan is first established and annually thereafter.

It is unclear whether the training should be conducted live or if it may be conducted in another format. Section 6401.9 provides that the training should be conducted by a person knowledgeable of the WVPP. The new law also specifies that employees should be able to pose questions and receive answers during the training. Employers must take into account employees’ spoken languages, education levels, and literacy when providing the training. The law does not specify how long the training should be.

The training must include the following:

  • The plan, how to obtain a free copy of the plan, and how to participate in developing and implementing the plan
  • The definitions and requirements of the law
  • How to report workplace violence
  • Specific workplace violence hazards
  • Corrective measures of the plan
  • Details on seeking assistance, responding to violence, and avoiding physical harm
  • Violence incident logs
  • Information on obtaining records

Workplace Violence

The law defines workplace violence as “any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment.” The employee does not need to sustain an injury. Workplace violence includes

  • Threats or uses of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, trauma, or stress;
  • Incidents involving threats or the use of firearms or dangerous weapons.

Lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others are specifically excluded from the definition.

If workplace violence occurs, the employer must fill out a Violence Incident Log (Cal/OSHA Form 300). The information on the log must include, but is not limited to, (1) the date, time, and location of the workplace violence incident; (2) the type of workplace violence; and (3) a detailed description of the event.

Required Records

Finally, the new law requires covered employers to maintain certain records. For at least five years, employers must maintain (1) records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction; (2) violence incident logs; and (3) records of workplace violence investigations. Additionally, for at least one year, employers must maintain training records. Training records must include the dates of the trainings, a summary of the trainings, the names of the trainers, and the names of all attendees.

Section 6401.9 also permits employees to request copies of these records. Employers must provide the requested records within 15 calendar days of the request at no cost to the employee.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the requirements of this new law could face a penalty of up to $25,000 for “serious” violations, and $158,727 for “willful” violations. Employers should be aware of the possibility of penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) for violations of the new law. PAGA reaches claims involving workplace safety violations. See, e.g., Sargent v. Bd. of Trustees of California State Univ., 61 Cal. App. 5th 658, 671 (2021).