The California Supreme Court ruled this week that employers cannot deny workers a place to sit just because they prefer that the person stand. Instead, they must consider the employee’s work station, not overall duties, when deciding whether to provide a seat. The court’s opinion comes from lawsuits that were brought by cashiers at CVS and bank tellers at Chase Bank. They claimed they were wrongly denied a place to sit while they were working. Experts say that it’s likely that companies will provide a seat for workers after the ruling.
In California, there are state labor regulations that require employers in California to provide workers with suitable seats when the nature of their work reasonably permits the use of seats. In the case recently ruled on, CVS and Chase Bank argued that the rules require an approach which determines the nature of employees’ work by considering the entire range of tasks they perform.
In CVS’s case, cashiers also stock shelves and perform other tasks that require them to stand. The company’s approach would allow CVS to classify those jobs as “standing jobs” and deny them seats while working, according to the Supreme Court. The court rejected that interpretation, saying that it ignores the duration of those tasks, and where and how often those tasks are performed. The court instead called for an assessment of employees’ tasks and duties at particular work stations, such as at cash registers or teller windows, when deciding whether those workers should get a place to sit.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said that the decision was a victory for all workers who have been denied a place to sit while they perform repetitive tasks in fixed locations. The attorney said that for millions of California workers in the retail industry, their employers will begin giving them seats, which will help with comfort and health.
The California Supreme Court also said that some situations could make seating at work unfeasible, such as if a seat interferes with tasks that require standing, or if it affects overall job performance. Chase and CVS argued that employees provide better customer service if they are standing.
A spokeswoman for JP Morgan Chase did not comment. A CVS spokesman said that the company was pleased with the ruling, stating that the company’s policies are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the law that allows employers to consider factors such as their desire to provide prompt and efficient customer service when deciding whether or not seating is appropriate. Although the overall court opinion favors the plaintiffs, companies are still allowed to use their business judgment in deciding whether to provide seats to workers.
The case is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court asked the California Supreme Court to determine whether each task employees perform must be evaluated to determine whether it qualifies for a seat. The 9th Circuit also asked whether the employer’s judgment about whether the employee should stand must be considered.
This ruling is a win for workers. Unfortunately, many employers will likely continue to ignore the legal rights of their employees, and fail to provide a seat. If you believe that your employer is violating your legal rights, it’s critical that you speak with an attorney. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg help employees stand up for their legal rights. Call the Oakland- San Francisco employment law attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case. We work with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area, including Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, Berkeley, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. Call to learn more.