Executive Summary of an article:
California requires employers to provide “suitable seats” for employees to use at any workstation where the “nature of the work” performed there “reasonably permits the use of a seat.” Cashiers, greeters, bank tellers and even security guards have filed lawsuits claiming that their employer failed to provide them with suitable seats. Customer service, however, is a crucial aspect of operating any business and requires meeting customer expectations of service. Can an employer meet those expectations if its employees are seated? California employers are faced with a difficult decision.
Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats requires examination of the tasks assigned to employees and whether it is feasible to work while seated; the relationship between standing and sitting tasks, and whether sitting, or transitioning between sitting and standing would interfere with job performance; an employer’s business judgment concerning customer service and other standards; and physical layout of a workspace. A seat is required when the work reasonably permits it, and when a suitable one is available. The employer bears the burden of showing compliance is infeasible because no suitable seating exists.
While California may be the most visible in its pursuit of employers regarding suitable seating, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey all have some version of a suitable seating law. With settlements providing windfalls to plaintiffs’ attorneys and state funds alike, we can expect more states to follow suit.
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