Workers No Longer Have to Stand for It

By Adam Dombchik, Esq.

The California Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that employers cannot refuse a worker a place to sit simply because they prefer that the employee stand. And, employers must take into consideration the employee’s work station, not just the worker’s overall duties, when deciding whether or not to provide a seat.

Friedrichs versus California Teachers Association

“There is no principled reason for denying an employee a seat when he spends a substantial part of his workday at a single location performing tasks that could reasonably be done while seated, merely because his job duties include other tasks that must be done standing,” wrote Justice Carol A. Corrigan.

The opinion stemmed from a class-action lawsuit brought by cashiers at CVS drugstores and tellers at JP Morgan Chase Bank who suffered workplace injuries due to prolonged standing. The ruling is designed to further clarify state labor regulations mandating that California employers provide workers with “suitable seats” when the type of work could reasonably accommodate them.

Chase Bank and CVS contended that the rules call for a “holistic” approach that takes the employee’s full range of duties into account. They argued that if any part of a worker’s job required standing (such as when a cashier is also tasked with stocking shelves), no seat is required.

The Court disagreed, calling for an appraisal of the employee’s task at particular works stations, such as cash registers or teller windows, and using that assessment to determine whether or not a worker gets a seat.  In addition, the court ruled that an employer can’t design a work space to “further a preference for standing” and must take into full consideration the feasibility of accommodating a seat into the work station.

This is a victory for workers who are forced to endure grueling hours on their feet simply because there is a perception on the part of retailers that a worker who is standing appears more attentive and professional. For more than three decades we at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP have been fighting for the rights of workers who are injured on the job. We see the devastating effects these injuries can have on workers and their families.  A safe and healthy workplace should be upmost on employers’ minds.

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