New Laws Protecting California’s Healthcare Workers Result in Litigation Uptick

An important bill that went into effect at the beginning of the year has given health care employees added protection against workplace violence.  California’s Senate Bill 1299 requires supplemental training for all personnel who perform direct care to patients, as opposed to the former requirements that only pertained to emergency room personnel.  Also, the new law ensures a higher degree of employee security in areas around the facilities such as parking lots especially late night and early morning.  Other requirements include more advanced security systems, security personnel and distribution of information about recent violent incidents.

Although some hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) have taken action by establishing workplace violence prevention plans, they are still placing their employees at risk due to inadequate staffing levels.  It is established that insufficient staffing levels have a direct effect on increasing the risk of violence. Further, SB 1299 requires the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards (Cal-OSHA) to adopt standards by January 1, 2016 that require certain hospitals to adopt workplace violence prevention plans.  Indeed, just last week, Cal-OSHA proposed regulations that aimed to prevent workplace violence focusing on assaults and violent acts on medical personnel.  Under the proposed regulations, employers would be required to implement (1) Identification of Risk Factors, (2) Investigation and Response Procedures, and (3) Procedures for Correcting Violence Hazards.

Another related bill, AB 2053, requires employers subject to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement for supervisors to now include a section in such training on the prevention of abusive conduct.  “Abusive conduct” is defined as “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”  It may include the repeated infliction of verbal abuse, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or undermining a person’s work performance.

As the number of SNFs rises and their ownership is increasingly transferred to private equity groups, so too are the opportunities for cost-cutting and lowering of staffing levels to maximize profits.  The unfortunate result of understaffed facilities is that personnel working at the facilities face increased pressures and higher levels of violence.  This is separate from the medically-vulnerable and often incompetent residents who receive substandard care and suffer severe bodily harm, falls, and even premature death.  See more information about insufficient staffing levels at SNFs here.

If you suffered an employment-related injury, experienced workplace violence, or were retaliated against for reporting such conduct to Human Resources or a government regulator, prompt action to preserve your rights is crucial.  Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.