SB 553 legislation page
Short version: this bill requires employer policies that basically discourage a business owner from allowing employees to intervene in thefts, opening up the business to lawsuits from both employees and the criminals.
Decent newspaper article about SB 553
California business owners and retail employees are sick of being robbed blind. The Legislature, seeing all the violence involved in these incidents, decides to put the onus on the businesses. Rather than increase penalties to deter crime and punish criminals, the state wants to “make it safer” for employees through workplace safety standards.
Many of us had menial jobs like fast food or retail where boring training videos tell you basically to give up the cash if robbed. Makes sense from a liability standpoint and if the state will actually attempt to apprehend and punish the criminals. However, as the state has abrogated that duty SB 553 now wants to minimize bad press of shoplifting turning to robberies by blaming the victims.
The bill originally sought to force employers to create plans for non-security guard employees on how shoplifting (theft) confrontations. Such incidents would basically fall under OSHA regulations. This creates a perverse disincentive for businesses allowing employees to intervene; if an employee is assaulted, there is now an avenue of approach for a shady worker’s comp lawyer to sue the employer.
Now I’m not saying that’s what would happen in any case, but shysters will exploit anything to make a buck and businesses are wary of liability like this. So it becomes easier for a retailer to say “Just don’t do anything that could get someone hurt or the company sued.” Employees as a result do nothing, lowering the bar for theft. Combine this with a slow or no police response and prosecutors who don’t press charges and retail theft is basically consequence-free.
A major tenant of leftist, progressive policies is blame shifting. Blame the victim rather than the offender. By opening up potential workplace safety violations, the risk of employer liability increases, thus it creates the perverse incentive to require employees to do nothing. If an employer can argue that their training was for their staff to just let it happen, then the employee is responsible for their injuries as they broke store policy. That’s to say nothing of what the criminal’s civil attorney could do.
So without legalizing shoplifting, the state seeks to do that through the law of unintended consequences. SB 553 is the camel’s nose under the tent of actually prohibiting things like citizen’s arrest for property crimes. Mark my words: California will probably ban private citizens from arresting retail thieves which will really neuter businesses and de facto legalize shoplifting.
Sept. 7 update: The employer or union can seek a TRO on behalf of an employee; essentially banning repeat offenders from the business. As we all know, restraining orders are rather worthless, but hey, I guess CVS can get the crazy bums arrested now if they don’t stay away (assuming the cops care).
Note: this an adaptation from my non-fiction book Suburban Warfare: A cop's guide to surviving a civil war, SHTF, or modern urban combat, available on Amazon.