California Retail Stores Hit with Flurry of Suitable Seating Lawsuits
June 20, 2011
As our attorneys recently discussed in a Westminster, California employment lawyers blog, a flurry of California retail chains such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Target are being sued for failing to provide suitable seating for employees who are expected to work in positions that keep them on their feet throughout the day.
According to a related Associated Press article, two recent appellate decisions that allow employees to use California's Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) provision are leaving retail employers to face millions of dollars in monetary damages.
As our Riverside employment lawyers discussed, early suitable seating lawsuits were based on an Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order containing provisions regulating working hours, minimum wage and other standard issues of employment, including suitable seating. The first two important appellate decisions that turned "suitable seating" into law were issued in November, with many new cases following thereafter.
In the Home Depot case, the retail store's lawyers argued that the provision wasn't a law because the passage reads as a suggestion rather than a binding law--that doesn't expressly prohibit retailers from neglecting to provide suitable seating. The court tossed out this argument, ruling that suitable seating requirements could be enforced by employees under PAGA, and employees are entitled to recover $100 per pay period for the initial violation and double that for each subsequent violation--penalties that add up for the California retailers who employ hundreds of thousands of workers.
The provision calls for employees to have seats placed within reasonable proximity to where they work, but leaves the decision to employers' discretion. Attorneys are reportedly telling clients to place one chair at each cash register.
Wave of Lawsuits Over Seats Hit Retail Stores, The Associated Press/Yahoo News, June 18, 2011
Home Depot v. Super. Ct., Justia.com
Home Depot Loses Argument in 'Suitable Seating' Case, The Recorder, December 22, 2010
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Starbucks Sued for Dwarfism and Disability Discrimination, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 8, 2011
EEOC Latex Disability Lawsuit Settled--John Muir Pays Workers $340K, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 17, 2011