California just passed SB 553, a new workplace violence prevention law. Here’s what you need to know before the July 2024 deadline to comply.

On September 30th, California rolled out a law that creates new workplace violence prevention requirements for almost all California companies (SB 553). In this post, we’ll summarize key details, including who the law impacts, what’s required, the deadline, and how Ethena can help you meet the new requirements.


The topline news here is that California passed a new law, SB 553, that requires you as an employer of CA employees to create a workplace violence prevention plan, offer a reporting channel for incidents and threats of violence, and train on the plan once per year.

As always, with important stuff like this, it’s best to check with your own legal counsel to confirm the exact requirements that apply to your business! In fact, before we move forward:

Please note that none of this constitutes is is not legal advice, nor does it contain every detail or requirement of the applicable laws. It’s provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon as a standalone resource. If you have questions about these laws or, their implications for your organization, please consult your legal counsel.

Now let’s get into the details.

What is this new law all about?

Sadly, we’re talking about workplace violence. Specifically, direct violence or the threat of violence, such as employees facing shoplifters, armed people coming into an office space, and employees making threats to each other. 

If you’re not in an “IRL” industry like retail, you might think this doesn’t apply to your organization. But prominent law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP notes that the definition of violence is actually quite broad and includes “a threat 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.”

Furthermore, “the definition is subjective. A seemingly innocuous comment to some might be considered workplace violence based on the perception of an employee.” Practically speaking, this means workplace violence can occur in remote organizations, too.

Who does this new law impact?

According to employment law firm Littler Mendelson P.C., the answer is almost all CA employers and employees. In fact, it’s actually easier to describe who it doesn’t impact. According to the law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, here’s who is exempt:

  • “Employers already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Violence Prevention in Health Care standard
  • “Employees who telework from a location of their choosing that’s outside the control of the employer”
  • “Locations not open to the public where fewer than 10 employees work at a given time”
  • “Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and law enforcement agencies”

If you are unsure whether the new law applies to you and your employees, we recommend you talk to a qualified employment counsel.

What do I need to do to comply with SB 553?

To meet the new law’s requirements, employers need to create, implement, and maintain an effective workplace violence prevention plan. This includes:

  • Building relevant policies and procedures
  • Creating channels for reporting violent incidents and threats
  • Ongoing annual training on the violence prevention plan
  • Ongoing recordkeeping related to the above activities

What needs to be included in my workplace violence prevention plan?

Think of this as your “in case of emergency” plan that should be created in consultation with key stakeholders (e.g. facilities managers), and, according to Seyfarth Shaw, must include procedures for:

  • “Communicating with employees about: (1) how to report violent incidents, threats, or workplace violence concerns to employer or law enforcement and (2) how concerns will be investigated and results communicated”
  • “Responding to actual and potential workplace violence emergencies”
  • “Identifying and evaluating workplace violence hazards”
  • “Post-incident response and investigation”

Ethena is creating a template plan you can modify and use – sign up below to get notified when it’s available.

What reporting systems do I need?

According to Littler Mendelson P.C., SB 553 requires companies to have “effective procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report.”

This means you need to provide your employees a way to come forward and ensure that employees who come forward aren’t retaliated against.

You’ll also need to keep a violence incident log, which is essentially a repository of any reports that come in through your established channel. According to Seyfarth Shaw, an effective log must include the following elements: 

  • “Date, time, and location of the incident”
  • “Detailed description of the incident”
  • “Classification of who committed the violence”
  • “The violence type including whether it was a physical attack or threat, whether weapons or other objects were involved, or whether it was a sexual assault”
  • “Consequences of the incident including whether security or law enforcement was contacted and whether actions were taken to protect employees from a continuing threat”

Littler Mendelson notes that you also need to keep any records of incident investigations. For example, if HR conducted an investigation after an employee raised the concern that they were being threatened by their manager, those investigation notes need to be stored and maintained by employers for at least five year.

Employees are entitled to view and copy the log within 15 calendar days of a request.

What training is required under SB 553? 

The law requires that employers train employees when they establish a workplace violence plan, and then annually thereafter. 

According to Seyfarth Shaw, training needs to cover these topics:

  • “The employer’s Plan and how employees can obtain a free copy of the Plan”
  • “How to report workplace violence hazards and workplace violence incidents”
  • “Corrective measures the employer has implemented”
  • “How to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence”
  • “Strategies to avoid physical harm”
  • “Information about the violent incident log and how employees can obtain a copy”

In addition to the initial and annual training, further training is required when new workplace violence hazards are identified or when the plan changes, with employers required to retain training records for at least one year.

As you can see, this training needs to be specific to your company’s risks and plans. A one-size-fits-all training won’t work, which is why we at Ethena are developing a customizable course you can tailor to your organization.

When’s the SB 553 deadline?

July 1st 2024. Remember that you’ll need to have a plan, initial training, and a way to receive and log reports in place by then, and that you’ll need to meet the recurring annual training requirement.

Check the SB 553 box with Ethena’s help

Ethena stays up to date when new requirements like SB 553 roll out, and our platform helps customers automatically meet these requirements via new content and best-in-class automated training delivery.

You can purchase Ethena’s workplace violence training course (along with 100+ other courses) and our hotline and case management tool to easily meet these requirements.

Or, if you’re a current customer with access to our full course catalog, you’ll automatically get access to the workplace violence training course. 

Did you know?

SB 553 aside, it’s best practice to have a hotline and case management system to meet other external requirements, such as passing your SOC II audit or complying with the EU Whistleblower Directive. Plus, a case management system helps you spot trends, keep records for audits or investigations, and avoid losing sensitive data when HRBPs leave your organization. Perhaps most importantly, it helps you build a speak up culture where employees feel comfortable saying something when they see something.

If you’d like to check this off your to-do list, chat with our team today!

In the meantime, here’s a chart with more details of how Ethena’s tools help to meet these new requirements:

RequirementMeeting it with Ethena
TrainingEthena will shortly add to our library a short, off-the-shelf training that you can easily customize to include your policies and procedures. 

This training will also address how employees can report and be safe from retaliation.

Like all Ethena training, you can hook it up to your HRIS and automatically send the course to new hires in California, set the training to recur annually, and remind employees to train via Slack or email with a single click. 
ReportingEthena’s hotline and case management system allows you to have a system where employees can report issues, including workplace violence. A few key features include:

– Employees can report anonymously, helping to safeguard against retaliation
– You can automatically route workplace violence incidents to a specific admin
on your team, which keeps information on a need-to-know basis
– You can store follow-up investigations in one case log for easy tracking
PlanEthena will create a template plan you can modify and use. 

You can host your plan directly in Ethena so that it is always accessible to employees.
Please note that none of this constitutes legal advice, nor does it contain every detail or requirement of the applicable laws: it is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon as a standalone resource. If you have questions about these laws or their implications for your organization, please consult your legal counsel.