Crime & Justice

Court rules for employees in suitable seating case

The California Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion Monday on a lawsuit brought by cashiers at the CVS drug-store chain and tellers at Chase Bank who said they were wrongly denied seats while working.
The California Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion Monday on a lawsuit brought by cashiers at the CVS drug-store chain and tellers at Chase Bank who said they were wrongly denied seats while working.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Updated 12:07 p.m.: The state Supreme Court has ruled that all employees are entitled to a seat at work. 

The decision comes after cashiers at CVS and tellers at Chase Bank brought lawsuits claiming they were being forced to stand on the job.

California law requires employers to provide seating when the nature of the work "reasonably permits the use of seats."

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Michael Rubin said the issue stemmed from wording in the law. Is "the nature of the work" just the tasks an employee performs, or is it also the impression an employee gives off?

"What the employers say is business judgment factors in — if we as an employer decide that the way to make a customer happy is to require cashiers to smile at them while standing, then standing is required for that job," Rubin said.

The court has ruled the definition won't fly: as long as sitting down doesn't conflict with whatever task they're doing, employers in California must provide a chair to any worker that wants one.

Read the court's opinion »

— KPCC staff

8:46 a.m.: California's Supreme Court is set to clarify the state's rules for determining when employees are entitled to a seat.

The court's opinion, expected Monday, stems from lawsuits brought by cashiers at the CVS drug-store chain and tellers at Chase Bank who said they were wrongly denied seats while working. The companies face millions of dollars in potential penalties depending on the California Supreme Court's interpretation of the seat rules. The court's opinion would also affect other similar cases.

Employees in California are entitled to seats when the nature of their work reasonably permits the use of seats.

The CVS and Chase Bank lawsuits are 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 and the physical layout of the workplace must be taken into consideration.

CVS and Chase Bank say the seat rules require a holistic approach that determines the nature of employees' work by considering the entire range of tasks they perform, according to the 9th Circuit.

In CVS' case, cashiers also stock shelves and perform other tasks that require them to stand. The companies also say theemployees' job descriptions, the layout of the workplace and the business' judgment about whether employees should stand must be considered, according to the 9th Circuit.

The workers say an employer must evaluate each task they do and provide a seat if that task can objectively be performed while seated, according to the 9th Circuit. They contend that neither their other tasks nor the employer's judgment should factor into a decision.

— Sudhin Thanawala/AP