Employer Can Be Required To Provide A Seat For Employees
In the recent California case Meda v. Autozone, Inc., 81 Cal. App. 5th 366 (2022), a California Court of Appeal ruled that an employee is entitled to use a seat while working if the work reasonably allows the use of a chair. However, the court noted that where an employer has not expressly told employees that they might use a seat during their work nor provided a seat at a workstation, the issue of whether the employer offered suitable seating may be fact-intensive and involve numerous specific factors. In other words, determining whether an employer has provided appropriate seating will likely need to be determined case-by-case.
Employers need to know about the ruling in the case since it could affect employer responsibilities and employee rights in various workplaces. Our California employment law attorneys can provide employers with additional information about the case and its implications.
Facts of Meda v. Autozone
In Meda, the plaintiff (Meda) worked as a sales associate in a part-time position at an AutoZone store. She worked at the parts counter, assisting customers, operating the cash register, moving merchandise to different areas, cleaning the store, and stocking shelves. Meda estimated that she spent 40 percent of her work hours at the cashier station, where all the work could be performed while seated. She also estimated that she spent another 40 percent of her work hours at the parts counter, where about half of the work could be performed while seated. The tasks were performed at “elevated counters,” where Meda could not use a desk chair.
AutoZone had two raised chairs “in or near the manager’s station area.” Meda used one of the raised chairs at the cashier workstation as a disability accommodation following a foot injury, but she “believed those chairs were only available as an accommodation.” AutoZone’s policy was “to make a stool available for any employee that needed or desired to use one.” In a “management action plan” for store managers, AutoZone directed managers to “ensure that their store had two stools available as needed,” and it advised them “that the stools could be placed by the manager’s office, at the commercial desk, or by the end of the cashier workstation.” However, there was no training for seating policies, and employee handbooks did not contain a policy on seating.
Implications for Employers
The Court of Appeal ruled that an employee is entitled to use a seat while working if the work reasonably allows the use of a chair. While the court did not conclude whether AutoZone “provided” a suitable seat as per the wage order, it made clear that merely making seating available upon request may not be sufficient to meet the requirement of providing seating. Instead, employers must consider the specific work requirements for that workplace.
Contact an Employment Lawyer in California
Employers with questions about their responsibilities to provide seating should contact an experienced California employment lawyer at the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC. We serve employers in Riverside County, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Coachella, and Desert Hot Springs.