The California Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling that will help workers whose jobs require constant standing. The state’s highest court clarified what constitutes “suitable seating” as well as when an employer must provide seating for standing workers.
For years, California law has required employers to provide employees with suitable seating whenever a job reasonably permits the use of seats. However, employers and courts alike were without clear guidance on when the employer needed to provide a seat for workers and what accommodations should be made.
In early April, the Court rendered a decision on a lawsuit called Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. In that case, clerks and cashiers at CVS banded together and formed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that CVS refused to provide chairs for its employees. As a result, clerks and cashiers were forced to stand for hours at a time, even when it became physically painful to do so. The Kilby case was consolidated for review with a similar lawsuit involving bank tellers at JP Morgan Chase.
The Court found that if the nature of the job reasonably permits seated work, then the employer has an unambiguous responsibility to provide workers with suitable seats. Just because a worker may have to stand to perform certain tasks does not mean that the worker must stand all day.
Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote, “There is no principled reason for denying an employee a seat when he spends a substantial part of his workday at a single location performing tasks that could reasonably be done while seated, merely because his job duties include other tasks that must be done standing,” Justice Carol A. Corrigan
The Court ruled that whether or not a worker needed a seat depended on the totality of the circumstances, such as whether seating would interfere with performance and whether the work space allowed the use of a stool or chair. The Court warned employers not to purposefully design a workspace to further a preference for standing—employers must consider whether a workplace layout could be reasonably changed to accommodate seating. Employers need to focus on the actual tasks an employee is expected to perform in a certain location and consider whether or not seating could be provided at that place. If seating is not provided, the employer has the burden of proving that providing seating is either impossible in the location or would unreasonably hinder an employee’s work.
Employers who fail to provide seating could be liable to all employees for tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Under the state’s Private Attorney General Act, an employer could have to pay $100 per affected employee for each initial violation and $200 per employee per pay period for each subsequent violation.
Sacramento, CA 95821