California Supreme Court Considers Suitable Seating

California’s highest court is currently contemplating employer requirements for providing “suitable seating” to workers in the workplace. Here is what California employers need to know now:

  1. This is in response to a series of class actions. Most of the state’s California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Ordersrequire employers to provide employees with “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” This requirement has been around for decades, dating back to turn of the century protections for workers in garment factories, but, following a 2010 case that paved the way, in the last few years an increasing number of workplace class actions have been brought over the specifics of this requirement. Now the state’s highest court is considering the suitable seating requirement in a more comprehensive way.
  2. Nothing has been decided yet. Back in November of 2013, the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to take up the matter of suitable seating, specifically to provide clarity on what a few vague terms in the Work Order really meant, including just what a “suitable seat” really is, what “reasonably permits” means, and a definition for “nature of the work.” The state’s high court agreed to hear the case back in April 2014, and a decision is not expected for several months or more. Currently interested parties, including the AARP, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association have filed a series of amicus briefs to the court, essentially arguing their positions on the matter.
  3. It might be time to invest in a few chairs. Practically speaking, if you are an employer, particularly with lower wage employees who are required to stand for long periods (especially sales, restaurant, assembly line, retail, hospitality, warehouse, and janitorial workers) it would not be a bad idea to invest in a few additional chairs for your workers particularly in break rooms and common areas, or consider installing stools for counter or desk positions. It is difficult to predict how the court will rule, but regardless, the proliferation of lawsuits suggests that this issue will not be going away any time soon.

When your California business employs hourly workers, and needs advice on suitable seating, or other labor and employment matters, or you are an hourly worker and feel that you are being treated unfairly, you can turn to Gray & Associates. Attorney Nancy Gray represents California businesses and individuals in all aspects of labor and employment law, including resolving hourly wage disputes, developing policies and best practices for human resources, and addressing potential labor and employment claims. Put a committed, knowledgeable labor and employment attorney to work for your business today.   Call Attorney Gray at (310) 452-1211 or visit Gray & Associates online for a free consultation.


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