California All But Legalizes Shoplifting
A new bill passed by the California State Senate last week aims to protect employees by making it illegal for businesses to mandate that employees confront shoplifters. Introduced by State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-Cupertino), Senate Bill 553 will enhance workplace safety and add more prevention measures to address violence at work. It is now awaiting approval by the California State Assembly and the governor’s signature to become law on January 1, 2024. In addition to workplace safety measures, if you are facing employment discrimination issues, seeking employment discrimination help from lawyers can provide guidance and support in protecting your rights and pursuing legal remedies.
“What we’re saying in the bill is, it’s not ok for an employer to take a rank and file worker, somebody whose job is really something else, a reporter for example, and say ‘hey if there’s an intruder, we’re going to deputize you. You’ll be the one to intervene.’ People get hurt and oftentimes killed that way,” Cortese told KTVU.
The new bill would prevent companies from making their employees confront active shooters or shoplifters. This comes at a time when crime rates in retail stores are on the rise due to recent criminal justice reforms. Many stores are experiencing reduced profits as a result of theft, particularly organized retail crime, and incidents of violence are also becoming more common. This has led store owners to demand stronger measures to prevent these crimes from occurring.
According to Crosstown, there were 6,414 reported instances of shoplifting in 2022 in Los Angeles alone.
There has been a significant rise in theft incidents since August 2022 until the first two months of 2023. Department stores have been the most affected, with 1,503 shoplifting cases reported according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Clothing stores are the second most affected category, with 803 theft incidents reported. These incidents have led to significant economic losses for retailers, causing store closures and security adjustments.
Around two weeks later, 24-year-old Banko Brown was shot and killed after a scuffle with a security guard in a San Francisco Walgreens. Still, over 50 organizations, including the California Retailers Association, (CRA) don’t support the bill.
“This bill goes way too far, number one, where I think it will open the doors even wider for people to come in and steal from our stores. Number two, Cal OSHA has been working on regulations for the past few years that all industries have been engaged in. We’d like to see Cal OSHA processes continue because we have been working with them,” said Rachel Michelin, CRA president and CEO.
The CRA says if SB 553 becomes law, it will need to apply to all industries and not just retail. They also say most retailers already prohibit regular employees from approaching anyone about stolen merchandise and have some employees who are trained in theft prevention.
“It says no employee can approach someone who is shoplifting. So even if someone is trained on how to deter someone from doing that, now they’re not allowed to approach someone. So, what does that mean? We are opening up the door to allow people to walk into stores, steal and walk out,” Michelin said.
Cortese says there may be some adjustments made to the bill as it heads to assembly policy committees. The bill has already passed the State Senate.