A bill signed recently signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB 561, extends highway workers' legal protections against abuse from the public to other workers, including,
employees of a city, county, or city and county, as well as employees of a contractor while working under contract with the Department of Transportation, contractors and employees of contractors while working under contract with a city, county, or city and county, and volunteers, as defined, and to include additional specified activities related to local roads or streets.
We found the Senate analysis of the bill particularly telling:
Unfortunately, local streets and road workers, who may be perceived as the cause of traffic congestion and delay, often become the targets of motorists' ire. Examples of particularly serious recent incidents have included an employee shot with a paint ball gun, another shot at with a BB gun, and one attacked with jumper cables. Employees who work on local streets and roads believe that verbal abuse is very common and that the incidence of more serious incidents may be increasing.
While assault and battery are already criminal offenses, current penalties do not appear to be sufficient to deter dangerous, and in some cases potentially deadly, assaults on local streets and roads workers. Due to the nature of their work environment, these employees' safety can be at risk even under the best of circumstances. Given their vulnerability, they deserve the greatest protection possible against abuse by the public.