Suing over seating? Welcome to 2014

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The industrial era was unkind to women and children. Dickensian scenes of young, impoverished child miners drove the English to install the Mines Act of 1842 – but even until the early 1900s, the USA’s garment industry was struck by labor abuse problems. So in 1919, the state of California enacted Section 14 of the Wage Orders, which requires employers to provide workers with “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.

The obscure passage served its purpose for the time-being, but it has recently stepped into the spotlight again as lawyers take advantage of it for class-action suits against retail companies who assume that sales people don’t need seating on the shop floor.

Now, the California Supreme Court is stepping in to clarify whether restaurants, bars and retailers will be forced to provide seating for staff on the front line. On Friday, the Court announced the issue was pending before the court, specifically in relation to two cases against CVS pharmacies and JPMorgan.

In the first case, a former cashier brought a putative class action against CVS for not giving her a seat – even though she was informed during training that she would be standing while operating the cash register. The second involves a teller complaining of JPMorgan’s policy of not providing tellers with seats.

The Supreme Court has not confirmed a date of decision but they have announced that it is pending.


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