(The Center Square) — Despite many claims, California’s Bill SB 553 would not prohibit arresting shoplifters, but would still cost businesses and taxpayers a lot.
Major social media accounts and major news outlets have misrepresented the bill. Proud Elephant, who has nearly 280,000 subscribers on X.com, posted an article with 1.2 million views at the time of writing, saying the bill would make it “ILLEGAL to confront or fight looters, burglars and shoplifters” and “You will be fined almost $20,000 if you try to stop these crimes. This post has since been captured and reposted on other social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. Newsweek’s article on the measure, titled “Bill to prevent employees confronting shoplifters faces key vote,” also misrepresented the bill.
The significantly amended bill never included a measure prohibiting individuals from confronting shoplifters. Instead, an earlier version of the bill contained a provision prohibiting employers from “maintaining policies requiring employees to confront suspected active shooters or shoplifters.” In the vote to remove the bill from the state Assembly’s pending docket, often used to silently kill bills costing more than $150,000, that provision was removed. By prohibiting employers from taking punitive action against employees who contact law enforcement during violent incidents, the bill essentially allows employers to maintain policies requiring the confrontation of shoplifters with an exclusion protecting those who choose to call the police instead.
As SSB 553 currently stands, the bill seeks to require all businesses, even small businesses, to create workplace violence prevention plans and develop and deploy thorough training and procedures to deal with workplace violence, including reporting crimes. The cited fine of $18,000 to $25,000 applies when an employer fails to meet any of the levels of regulatory and procedural requirements outlined in SB 553.
In an example provided by the California Chamber of Commerce, an employer who fails to “sufficiently” assess potential hazards in their workplace, fails to remedy hazards they fail to identify, and fails to effectively train its employees on the problem they did not identify could be cited multiple times, incurring up to $25,000 for each citation, even if no injury ever occurred.
According to analysis by labor law firm Ogletree Deakins, the level of procedural and regulatory requirements of SB 553 in all workplaces, from businesses to government organizations, are “similar in scope” to those required by ” psychiatric hospitals” and would require the installation of equipment such as electronic access controls, weapons detectors and training of employees on methods of preventing workplace violence, procedures to follow in the event of an incident of workplace violence , training for shoplifters, training for active shooters and prohibits employers from requiring employees to confront suspected shoplifters.
In the California Assembly Appropriations Committee’s analysis of the bill, committee staff wrote that the tax impact on the state and other employers is “unknown, but likely significant,” citing a analysis of state public school districts that just one hour of SB 553 training for them would cost $19 million and does not include the administrative costs of creating and modifying the plan and maintaining records.