Employers should review their work station seating arrangements in light of the California Supreme Court’s ruling last month that employees are entitled to have seats.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court said, “If the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for.”
The decision comes after cashiers at CVS (Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.) and tellers at Chase Bank (Henderson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank NA) brought lawsuits claiming they were entitled to be seated while working.
California wage orders require employers to provide “suitable seating” when the nature of the work “reasonably permits.” The justices took on the task of clarifying those orders. While ruling in favor of the employees, they stopped short of saying that all tellers and store cashiers must have a chair available.
The justices said the decision on providing a seat depends on “the totality of circumstances.” That includes whether the physical layout of the work space can accommodate a seat and whether providing a seat would interfere with the work or affect overall job performance.
The court also indicated that the burden is on employers to prove the company doesn’t have to provide seating.
Faced with this ruling, employers in California should conduct an analysis of tasks performed at various locations to determine whether they need to provide seats for employees who currently don’t have them. Employees do not have to request a seat for the seating requirement to apply.
An ergonomic assessment might be advisable to determine whether seating is reasonable or feasible. Such an analysis can evaluate the tasks being performed to determine whether they are best accomplished while seated or standing, and without putting undue stress on the body or increasing the risk of injury.
For counsel on this and other employment laws, contact Johnson Employment Law at (949) 238-8044.