California Supreme Court Orders Employer to Let Workers Have a Seat

Every time we go into a retail establishment we see workers standing at the register. There is no real reason that these workers can’t be sitting in a chair other than due to the fact that they have always been required to stand.  However, just because it has always been done a certain way to does it make a good reason to doing that something that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

gavel7While this seem like a trivial issue, those who worked as a cashier know how painful it can be to stand in the same spot for hours on end.  While store owners realize it is painful and are often willing to provide a rubber mats for employees to stand on, they are not ever willing to allow these workers to sit in a stool or chair while working the register.

However, according to a recent news article from the Los Angeles Times, the California Supreme Court has ruled that employers may now be required to provide a chair for employees in need of a seat. In this case, a former cashier at CVS claimed she had been forced for years to stand up behind the counter despite that fact it was causing her considerable pain.  The fact that she had varicose veins also made the pain more difficult to tolerate.

She filed a class action lawsuit against her former employer along with many other similarly situation plaintiffs. As part of its ruling in this case, the California Supreme Court interpreted a seemingly ambiguous clause in the state labor code in a way that says that there is no valid reason for an employer to deny an employee a seat if she or she spends most of his or her time working in a singular location. If his or her assigned tasks can reasonable be performed while seated, there is no reason that a chair shall not be provided even though other tasks at the place of employment would not be possible while seating.

In other words, while a person who restocks shelves could not do his or her job in chair in most cases, this should not mean the cashier should not have a chair.  It should also be noted that other employees will likely have more an opportunity to walk around the store and probably sit down and rest in a part of the store that is off the sales floor and out of view of customers.

While this was actually a federal case, it was the federal circuit court that asked the California state supreme court to answer a certified question as to the meaning of the state labor code provision. As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, in some federal cases, there will be certain provisions of state law that may control the outcome of the federal legislation.  When the legislation is ambiguous, the federal court can certify a question to the state supreme court to answer the question. This is sometimes known as an advisory opinion.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

California’s top court tells employers to give workers a chair, April 4, 2016, LA Times, By Maura Dolan

More Blog Entries:

Workers’ Compensation and Employee Misclassification Issues, Jan. 19, 2016, Orange County Farm Worker Rights Lawyer