End-of-Term CA Legislation Series: SB 553 Prohibits Employers From Requiring Workers to Confront Offenders

california-legislationThe California legislature has been quite active, with numerous laws either passed or drafted between 2022 and 2023

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be discussing the details of these new bills with our “End-of-Term CA Legislation Series,” primarily in reference to workplace provisions and labor laws.

One of these bills was recently passed in May of 2023, and seeing as it takes effect in January 2024, employers are racing to revise their workplace violence policies and comply with Senate Bill 553’s new standards.

SB 553 was introduced by Senator Dave Cortese and co-sponsored by a number of labor unions, the bill is aimed at establishing new workplace violence prevention standards for common incidents, most notably shoplifting and active shooting occurrences.

In Cortese’s words, under SB 553, “employers would be prohibited from forcing their workers to confront active shoplifters, and all retail employees would be trained on how to react to active shoplifting.” All in all, the legislation is meant to reduce workplace assaults and shootings so that workers are kept safe while on the job. 

Looking at statistics over the past year, it’s no wonder why there’s worry surrounding the safety of retail workers. 

Last year was the most violent year to date for America’s retail industry, with 694 violent fatalities – which is up by 17% from 2021. Scroll through my overview of how California is attempting to combat workplace violence, before we dive into the opposition and how employers should prepare. 


An Overview of SB 553

Along with preventing employers from mandating workers to confront shoplifters and active shooters, SB 553 has a handful of other provisions to abide by. Here’s a rundown of its key clauses:

  1. Employers will be required to provide active shooter training to non-healthcare workers
  2. Employers will need to keep a log of violent incidents
  3. Employers will have to conduct assessments of staffing levels as a cause for workplace violence incidents

The bill is a large step forward in protecting the safety of California’s retail workforce, but keep in mind that it doesn’t prevent employers from asking workers to report suspicious activity. 

SB 553 has also seen some opposition from select parties, as it implies that shoplifters and active shooters may have more free reign to cause harm.


Arguments Against SB 553

While the bill may be for the sake of employee safety, some stakeholders didn’t agree with all of its provisions. Members of the California Retailers Association (CRA), in a recent Fox KTVU feature, believe the bill could make it even easier for people to steal, since SB 553 doesn’t require workers to intervene. 

Yahoo News also reported that the California Chamber of Commerce also wasn’t completely on board with SB 553, saying that CA employers should be worried because it “requires all employers to meet workplace violence standards that exceed even those applied to hospitals under present regulations.” 

Despite its opposition, SB 553 is still set to go into effect at the start of the new year – and before January rolls around, it’s crucial for employers to abide by the bill’s provisions and prepare for what’s to come. 


New Post-Incident Requirements for Employers

There are numerous other provisions within SB 553 concerning post-incident responses, or the actions a company takes for their employees following a violent incident. 

Here are the new requirements, which employers should align with by January 1, 2024:

  • Administer immediate medical care or first aid to employees who have been injured in the event
  • Determine the identities of all employees who were involved in the incident
  • Offer individual trauma counseling to all affected employees 
  • Refer affected employees to suitable worker wellness centers or employee assistance programs
  • Arrange a post-incident debriefing promptly after the event with all involved employees, supervisors, and security personnel
  • Review the effectiveness of corrective measures in workplace violence prevention plans, including adequate staffing, the use of alarms, and response from staff members or law enforcement
  • Gather input from the injured employee and other personnel involved in the event regarding how it started, and how it could have been prevented

By following these new provisions, employers can remain aligned with SB 553, and hopefully minimize the volume and effects of these risingly common retail incidents. 


How Employers Can Prepare for SB 553

Employers can smoothen the transition to SB 553 by consulting their internal or outside employment legal counsel, which can assist in reviewing and updating existing policies. Speaking with your human resources teams is also advised to quell any concerns. 

Employers, their employees, and their employment counsel can also reach out to an experienced mediator or ADR professional such as myself to support mediation efforts, and to resolve any disputes either during or before litigation around such issues in a productive manner. 

This way, matters can be resolved upfront and without the extensive costs or resources, and emotional toil of pursuing matters in court.


Experienced Employment & Title IX Mediator & ADR Professional

Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment, labor law & Title IX mediator and alternative dispute resolution professional.  Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues. Furthermore, she’s been named a “Top 50 Woman Attorney” in California by Super Lawyers, a “Top California Employment Lawyer” by the Daily Journal, and one of Los Angeles’ “Most Influential Minority and Women Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Signature Resolution, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation and resolution of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram @iamangelareddockwright, LinkedIn at Linkedin.com/in/angelareddock, and tune in to my weekly radio show, KBLA Talk 1580’s Legal Lens with Angela Reddock-Wright each Saturday and Sunday at 11 am PST, or catch past episodes on Anchor.fm/Spotify.   You can learn more about the radio show here – https://angelareddock-wright.com/radio-show/.

Also, learn more about my book – The Workplace Transformed: 7 Crucial Lessons from the Global Pandemic – here – https://angelareddock-wright.com/book/.




For media inquiries, please reach out to monty@kwsmdigital.com.

For more information regarding resources mediation and dispute resolution resources for both employees and employers, connect with Angela on LinkedIn for new updates or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.

This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.

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