Quick Hits

  • S8358, a bill recently introduced in the New York State Senate, would require retail employers in New York to assess workplace violence hazards and develop and implement comprehensive written workplace violence plans.
  • States are increasingly addressing workplace violence prevention, with at least twelve states having enacted workplace violence prevention laws or adopted regulations applicable to healthcare settings.
  • OSHA has also taken steps to develop a workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare settings.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported in July 2022 that from 2014 to 2019, the number of workplace homicides in the United States increased by 11 percent. The BJS also reported that from 2015 to 2019, there was an annual average of 1.3 million incidents of nonfatal workplace violence—a rate of eight nonfatal violent incidents per 1,000 workers age sixteen or older.

On January 22, 2024, New York State Senator Jessica Ramos introduced Senate Bill S8358, which is designed to prevent workplace violence in retail establishments. Titled the “Retail Worker Safety Act,” S8358 would require retail employers in New York to assess workplace violence hazards and develop and implement a comprehensive written workplace violence plan. The law would apply to retail stores. A “retail store” is broadly defined in the legislation as “a store that sells consumer commodities at retail and which is not primarily engaged in the sale of food for consumption on the premises.”

The proposed law would require, among other things, the following:

  • Employers would be required to prepare a written program that includes a list of identified risk factors and methods to prevent violence.
  • Employers would be required to provide training to employees on the risks of workplace violence, including “de-escalation tactics” and “active shooter drills.”
  • Employers would be required to document each incident of workplace violence and report it to a “publicly accessible state database.”
  • Employers with fifty or more retail workers nationwide would be required to install “panic buttons” that immediately dispatch local law enforcement when pressed.
  • Employers experiencing a certain number of violent incidents (to be determined) would be required to employ a security guard during all open hours.

New York’s S8358 is just the most recent example of the growing trend of state laws and regulations designed to require employers to address workplace violence. For example, several states have enacted workplace violence prevention laws or regulations applicable to healthcare settings, which have a higher risk of workplace violent incidents than many other industries. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington all have laws or regulations that require healthcare employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also taken steps to develop a workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare settings.

Along with New York, other states are taking action outside of healthcare settings, with workplace violence prevention laws or regulations applicable to general industry. For example, California took the lead with the recent enactment of Senate Bill (SB) 553, which comes into effect on July 1, 2024, and requires the vast majority of California employers to implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program, including, among other things, written procedures to prevent workplace violence and to respond to workplace violence emergencies, methods for employees to bring forth workplace violence incidents, employee training, and recording incidents on a violent incident log.

Texas also recently enacted a law that requires employers to post a notice poster to employees in English and Spanish about how to report incidents of workplace violence to employers.

As workplace violence incidents continue to receive publicity and media coverage, it is likely that more states will enact laws or adopt regulations aimed at preventing workplace violence.

Ogletree Deakins’ Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group will continue to monitor developments and will publish updates on the Workplace Safety and Health blog as additional information becomes available.

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