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California Senate passes bill to stop employees from confronting shoplifters

retail criminal
The bill would require all non-healthcare employers to provide active shooter training to workers.

The California Senate has passed a bill that would establish new workplace violence prevention standards in California. Not everyone is happy about it.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 553, now progresses to policy committees in the State Assembly. Among other things, it would prohibit employers from “maintaining policies that require employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.” It also would require all non-healthcare employers to provide active shooter training to workers. 

The bill comes as retail crime is on the upswing, with several retailers, including Target, blaming theft, particularly organized retail crime, as eating into their profits. It also comes amid rising theft-related violence. In April,  a 26-year-old Home Depot security guard, Blake Mohs, was shot to death while trying to stop a theft in progress inside the company’s store in Pleasanton, Calif.

“With growing awareness of workplace violence, California needs smarter guidelines to keep workers safe in the office or on the job site,”said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose). “Under my 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. The legislation has other provisions that keep people safe at work. Let’s take every reasonable step to prevent another workplace assault or shooting.”  

  In other provisions of the legislation, the bill would also:

Require employers to maintain a violent incident log of all violent incidents against employees including post-incident investigations and response;

•Include, as part of the existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), an assessment of staffing levels as a cause for workplace violence incidents; 

•Requires employers to include an evaluation of environmental risk factors in their workplace violence prevention plan;

•Allow an employee representative to be a petitioner for a workplace violence restraining order; and

 •Require employers to refer workers to wellness centers.


 The bill has been met with opposition from a variety of groups, including the California Retailers Association (CRA).

“This bill goes way too far, number one, where I think it will open the doors even wider for people to come in and steal from our stores,” said Rachel Michelin, CRA president and CEO,  in a report by Fox

The California Chamber of Commerce also expressed reservations about the bill.

“California’s employers—both public and private—should be very concerned about SB 553 because it requires all employers to meet workplace violence standards that exceed even those applied to hospitals under present regulations,” the organization’s policy advocate Rob Moutri said in a statement  reported by Yahoo News.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites workplace violence as the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury. The agency estimates that workplace violence affects nearly two million workers annually, with female workers experiencing higher rates of nonfatal injuries than their male counterparts.  

If approved by the California State Assembly and signed into law by the governor, the measure would take effect on January 1, 2024.


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