California Workplace Violence Prevention
California workplace violence is a serious safety and health issue. While no federal law specifically addresses violence in the workplace, several laws impose a duty on employers to maintain a safe workplace. GDI Insurance Agency, Inc can provide your business the tools it needs to navigate California workplace safety laws and regulations.
For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) imposes a general duty on all employers to provide employees with a workplace that is free from hazards. Federal civil rights laws also require employers to keep the workplace free from threats of violence, and state workers’ compensation laws make employers responsible for certain injuries sustained workplace.
In California, the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (COSH Act) also places a duty on employers to provide employees with a safe workplace. In addition, the California Workplace Violence Safety Act (CWVS Act) allows employers to seek a temporary restraining order or injunction against anyone who poses a threat in the workplace.
EMPLOYERS’ OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE A SAFE WORKPLACE
The COSH Act makes employers primarily responsible for the safety and health of their employees.
Under this law, employers must:
- Establish, implement and maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention Program, and periodically update it;
- Inspect the workplace to identify and correct unsafe and hazardous conditions;
- Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment, and properly maintain the tools and equipment;
- Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards; and
- Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
California courts impose further obligations by requiring employers to hire and train their employees properly. An employer that does not adequately hire, train or supervise its employees may be sued in court and held liable for damages if it knew or should have known the employee would subject a coworker, customer or third party to an unreasonable risk of harm. The goal is to end California workplace violence.
Required Workplace Posting
The COSH Act requires employers to hang a “Safety and Health Protection on the Job” poster in a prominent place where employees can see it in the workplace. The poster informs employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law. Employers must post at least one in each establishment. Employers must also take steps to ensure that the signs are readable and not altered or defaced.
TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS OR INJUNCTIONS
The CWVSA allows an employer to seek a temporary restraining order or injunction against anyone who poses a threat to the workplace if an employee suffers unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence. Under the CWVSA:
- Unlawful Violence is any assault, battery or stalking, but does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others; and
- A Credible Threat of Violence is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.
A temporary restraining order or injunction obtained under the CWVS Act may include an order prohibiting a person from taking any of the following actions against an employee:
- Sexually assaulting;
- Telephoning, including making annoying telephone calls;
- Destroying personal property;
- Contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise;
- Coming within a specified distance;
- Disturbing the peace; or
- Any other specified behavior that the court determines is necessary.
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PLAN IMPLEMENTATION FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers can create a workplace violence plan to outline policies and processes that can help prevent workplace violence. If an employer elects to have a workplace violence plan, the plan will be most effective if it is tailored to the individual needs and circumstances of the employer. It should take into account the resources available to the employer to enact and maintain the program.
A California workplace violence policy may include the following items:
- A statement of the employer’s workplace violence policy and its relation to other policies the employer has enacted;
- Standard practices to address workplace violence or threats of violence;
- Designation and training of an incident response team;
- Clearly stated disciplinary procedures designed to prevent violent behavior in the workplace;
- Procedures for workplace violence that will handle all levels of violence;
- Reference to sources outside of the workplace that employees may consult to deal with workplace violence; and
- An effective training program to inform employees of the workplace violence policy.
Does California have specific laws in place addressing employer responsibility and workplace violence?
Yes. California has issued Cal/OSHA Guidelines for Workplace Security, and employers are required to have a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program. As a part of this program, Cal/OSHA requires employers to perform inspections where workplace hazards may be identified. Part of this requirement includes identifying potential for workplace violence and subsequently acting on these exposures.
Cal/OSHA says a workplace could experience three different types of violence: one where the perpetrator has no relationship to the business, one where the perpetrator is a recipient of the business’ service or one where the perpetrator has employment-related involvement. Employers’ written plans must identify all violence risk factors and take into account the possibility of each of the three types of violence. California has a list of criteria used to assess workplace violence risk.
Workplaces with one or more of the following factors are considered at risk by Cal/OSHA:
- Exchange of money
- Employees working alone at night or at early morning hours
- Presence of valuable items, property or other possessions (i.e., expensive jewelry)
- Performance of public safety functions in the community
- Work with patients, customers or others with known or suspected history of violence
- Employees with a history of assaults or belligerent behavior
It is the employer’s legal responsibility under California law to provide a safe and healthful place of employment for their employees. At-risk employers must include provisions in their program that ensure employees comply with safe work practices, provide a reliable system to respond to security threats, schedule inspections and provide means of protecting against workplace violence. This includes systems for investigating workplace violence claims, addressing security hazards and properly training employees on all aspects of the program.
Under California workplace violence laws, employers must inform victims that they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for injuries resulting from workplace violence. The notification must be written and delivered to the victim by hand or via first-class mail within one day of the occurrence or the date the employer should have known of the crime.
In addition, California lays out separate workplace violence laws for personnel in licensed hospitals as well as those providing service to the community in places especially conducive to workplace violence. The Guidelines for Security and Safety of Health Care and Community Service Workers applies to employees in these susceptible industries.
Employers in California must allow employees who are victims of crime and employees who are directly related to a crime victim to have time off work to attend judicial proceedings addressing the crime. Employers may not retaliate against these employees for taking time off work.
Has California enacted a version of the model Workplace Violence Safety Act?
Yes. The Act allows employers to seek an injunction and/or restraining order on behalf of employees who have experienced California workplace violence. The Act applies to employees that have been followed, stalked or excessively contacted while at their place of employment.
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