Quick Hits

  • Comprehensive workplace safety legislation proposed in the New York State Senate would require retail employers to assess potential workplace violence hazards and develop and implement comprehensive written workplace violence plans.
  • Among other requirements, retail employers with fifty or more employees nationwide would have to install panic buttons to immediately dispatch local law enforcement when pressed.
  • The bill, S8358B, has a companion bill pending in the New York State Assembly.

If enacted as proposed, the Retail Worker Safety Act will require New York retail employers to assess potential workplace violence hazards and develop and implement comprehensive written workplace violence plans. While the act would apply only to “retail stores,” the term is broadly defined in the legislation. It would ultimately apply to any “store that sells consumer commodities at retail and which is not primarily engaged in the sale of food consumption on the premises.”

Assembly Bill (A) A8947B is an identical version of S8358B, currently before the Senate. Because both the Senate and Assembly must pass a bill before it is delivered to the governor for signature or veto, the “Same As” bill is an early sign of its potential success. This is a significant indication that lawmakers in each chamber support the bill. As with S8358B, A8947B has also undergone two amendments. A8947B is currently scheduled for its third and final reading before the Assembly on May 13, 2024. Once this is completed, the bill will be eligible for a vote.

The Retail Worker Safety Act is meant to be a comprehensive legislative response to the hazard of violence in the workplace. Employers would be required to prepare written programs identifying workplace specific risk factors and establish methods to prevent violence at their workplaces. S8358B would also require employers to train employees on workplace violence risks, including active shooter drills. The bill also includes a reporting requirement, obligating employers to document each incident of workplace violence in a publicly accessible state database. If an employer were to surpass a (to be determined) number of violent incidents, it would be required to employ a security guard to be present during all open hours. Perhaps one of the legislation’s most significant requirements calls for employers with fifty or more retail workers nationwide to install panic buttons within their establishments. These panic buttons will immediately dispatch local law enforcement when pressed.

With the unfortunate trend of increased workplace violence, employers across the country can expect further legislative initiatives requiring employers to address the issue. As New York is following in the footsteps of California with its own dedicated workplace violence prevention law, employers can expect a domino effect in the near future, with other states enacting similar laws or regulations aimed at preventing workplace violence.

Ogletree Deakins’ Workplace Violence Prevention Practice Group will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the New York, Retail, and Workplace Safety and Health blogs as additional information becomes available.

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