New state bill aims to prevent workplace violence; some groups don't support it

The State Senate passed a new bill this week that supporters say would help keep employees safer from workplace violence. One aspect of the bill would prohibit companies from forcing their employees to confront shoplifters and require more training for workers. 

State Sen. Dave Cortese says Senate Bill 553 is another step in the fight against workplace violence. 

"More recently, we’ve seen another spike in retail violence. Safeway, Home Depot. It just seems to be happening every other day," said Cortese.

The bill is designed to require employers to provide active shooter training to workers, keep a log of all violent incidents in the workplace and allow companies to petition for workplace violence restraining orders on behalf of an employee.  

"What we’re saying in the bill is, it’s not ok for an employer to take a rank and file worker, somebody whose job is really something else, a reporter for example, and say ‘hey if there’s an intruder, we’re going to deputize you. You’ll be the one to intervene.’ People get hurt and oftentimes killed that way," Cortese said.   


In April, 25-year-old Blake Mohs was shot and killed when he tried to prevent a woman from stealing from a Home Depot in Pleasanton

Around two weeks later, 24-year-old Banko Brown was shot and killed after a scuffle with a security guard in a San Francisco Walgreens. Still, over 50 organizations, including the California Retailers Association, (CRA) don’t support the bill.  

"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. Number two, Cal OSHA has been working on regulations for the past few years that all industries have been engaged in. We’d like to see Cal OSHA processes continue because we have been working with them," said Rachel Michelin, CRA president and CEO.

The CRA says if SB 553 becomes law, it will need to apply to all industries and not just retail. They also say most retailers already prohibit regular employees from approaching anyone about stolen merchandise and have some employees who are trained in theft prevention.  

"It says no employee can approach someone who is shoplifting. So even if someone is trained on how to deter someone from doing that, now they’re not allowed to approach someone. So, what does that mean? We are opening up the door to allow people to walk into stores, steal and walk out," Michelin said.   

Cortese says there may be some adjustments made to the bill as it heads to assembly policy committees. The bill has already passed the State Senate.