California Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Employee Confrontation of Shoplifters

California legislators are working on contentious legislation that would prevent store employees from intervening to thwart shoplifting. State Senator Dave Cortese’s Senate Bill 553 has been approved by the State Senate and will be heard next in the State Assembly’s policy committees.

Cortese believes his proposed rule will deter violence in the workplace and shield workers from having their employers pressure them to intervene during robberies. The California Retailers Association, meanwhile, is among many who are upset about the plans, calling them an open invitation for burglars “to come in and steal.

California politicians are bickering after the murder of 26-year-old security guard Blake Mohs in an attempted robbery at a Home Depot store in Pleasanton. Cities all around the state are struggling to contain criminal activity for similar reasons.

Whole Foods has closed its downtown San Francisco shop after only one year in business due to a surge in violent crime, citing an inability to ensure the safety” of its employees. This month, Nordstrom followed suit and left the area, but many smaller businesses have been forced to stay despite being attacked.

California Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Employee Confrontation of Shoplifters

A statement released by Target in November blamed “organized retail crime” for the company’s staggering $400 million loss in earnings in 2022, prompting lawmakers to consider new legislation to combat stealing.

Democratic state senator Susan Cortese, whose district includes much of Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County, told Newsweek,

SB 553 is focused on protecting employees. The bill does not prohibit employees from stopping theft. It does prevent employers from asking non-security personnel to confront a person involved in criminal activity. We don’t want rank and file employees to be forced to place themselves in harm’s way.”

During an interview with Fox 2/KTVU, he said:

“More recently, we’ve seen another spike in retail violence; [At] Safeways, Home Depots, it just seems to be happening every other day… What we’re saying in the bill is it’s not ok for employers to take a rank-and-file worker, somebody whose job is really something else… and say, ‘Hey, you know, if there’s an intruder we’re going to deputize you to intervene.’ People get hurt and often killed that way.”

Cortese’s office published a statement noting an increase in store assaults due to the pandemic, citing a New York Times report from 2022 that indicated a 63% increase in grocery store assaults between 2018 and 2020, and a 75% increase in convenience store assaults during the same time period.

The below tweet verifies the news:

According to the report, physical altercations at work are the second biggest cause of fatal occupational injuries. Nearly 2 million workers are impacted annually by workplace violence, according to OSHA, with female employees seeing greater rates of nonfatal injuries than male employees.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) report on store safety published in 2022 also raised concerns that the problem was getting worse. According to the results of a yearly poll of loss prevention experts in the retail business, “retail shrink is a nearly $100 billion problem.”

According to the report, 37% of “shrink” was attributed to “external theft” and 28% was blamed on “employee/internal theft.” Several factors, including as processing and control errors, contributed to the discrepancy. The poll revealed that 39% of respondent businesses do not permit their employees to apprehend shoplifters.

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