U.S. House Passes Health-Worker Violence Bill; Presidential Veto Likely
On November 21, 2019, the House passed H.R. 1309, Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (the Bill), with notable bi-partisan support (251-158). If passed into law, the Bill would largely implement the State of California’s healthcare workplace violence standards nationally. The Bill has not made it to the Senate, however, and the President Trump administration has stated it intends to veto it as written.
As summarized on the congressional website:
“This bill requires the Department of Labor to … promulgate an occupational safety and health standard that requires certain employers in the health care and social service sectors … to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for protecting health care workers, social service workers, and other personnel from workplace violence.” Employers would also be required to “investigate workplace violence incidents, risks, or hazards as soon as practicable”; “provide training and education to employees who may be exposed to workplace violence hazards and risks”; “meet record keeping requirements”; and “prohibit acts of discrimination or retaliation against employees for reporting workplace violence incidents, threats, or concerns.”
The Bill defines “workplace violence” as “(i) the threat or use of physical force against a covered employee that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, psychological trauma, or stress, without regard to whether the covered employee sustains an injury, psychological trauma, or stress; and (ii) an incident involving the threat or use of a firearm or a dangerous weapon, including the use of common objects as weapons, without regard to whether the employee sustains an injury, psychological trauma, or stress.” OSHA reports that healthcare and social assistance workers are four times more likely to experience serious workplace violence (meaning incidents that require time off work to recuperate) than employees in other industries.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) opposes the Bill. “Federal support of research to identify best practices for different workplace settings and circumstances, and disseminating information about such best practices would do more to advance and promote workplace safety than the adoption of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard for compliance and enforcement,” Thomas Nickels, AHA’s executive vice president, stated in a public letter on the topic. Supporters of the Bill include many labor unions.
Stay tuned for any legislative developments. As always, please contact your Jackson Lewis attorney regarding best practices for responding to any workplace concerns, including proactively addressing workplace violence issues.