Workplace Seating Laws in California: A Guide
Your employer has a lot of control in the workplace, but do not forget that you have several rights as an employee.
Your employer needs to pay you properly, give you adequate breaks, protect you from discrimination, and keep your workplace safe.
In many cases, your employer also needs to provide you with a place to sit throughout your shift.
A chair might be small, but its presence in your workspace can make a big difference in your day-to-day well-being.
If your employer ignores its obligations under California seating law, you do not have to take this violation of your rights standing up.
You can take a seat and hold your employer accountable in legal action. And we can help you.
Our Starpoint Law attorneys aggressively enforce employee rights, and our success is unparalleled.
What Are My Rights to Seating in the Workplace?
Your employer’s obligation to provide you with a place to sit depends on what kind of job you have.
California law outlines the seating rules for employers in the separate wage orders it writes for different industries.
Though the State of California has wage orders requiring seating in many industries, it does not have a wage order requiring seating for “miscellaneous employees.”
But there are also specific seating rules under federal law, regardless of your industry.
Let’s look at the four main ways employers must provide seating.
Seating When It Is Reasonable or When There Is Downtime
In many industries, an employer must provide suitable seating when the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting.
If an employee needs to remain standing for their work in these industries, the employer still needs to provide a reasonably close area with an adequate number of seats employees can use during downtime (meaning an employee is still on duty but doesn’t actively have tasks to perform).
Employers must provide this level of seating in the following industries:
- Personal service,
- Public housekeeping,
- Laundry/linen supply/dry cleaning/dyeing,
- After-harvest handling,
- Amusement and recreation,
- Motion picture,
- On-farm agricultural product preparation for market, and
- Household occupation.
If your job is in one of these industries and requires that you stand, your employer needs to provide a seating area for downtimes if that seating does not interfere with work performance.
Seating When Industry Standards Require It
Certain employees with on-site jobs in construction, drilling, logging, or mining must receive suitable seating.
The law requires suitable seating for these employees when the nature of the process and work reasonably permits the use of seating.
Seating When It Is Reasonable for Employees Working with Machines
If you have an agricultural occupation that involves working at or on a machine, your employer has to provide you with suitable seating when the nature of your work reasonably permits it.
Many other industries require similar seating provisions.
Below, we will cover what the law means when it states that the nature of your work has to “reasonably permit” seating. We will also cover what it means to “provide” suitable seating.
Seating for Employees with Disabilities
Regardless of your job, your employer must provide you with seating necessary to accommodate a disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.
Sometimes an employer must reasonably accommodate your disability by allowing you to sit during your shift.
When Does a Job Reasonably Permit Seating Under the California Suitable Seating Law?
According to the California Supreme Court in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc, whether your job reasonably permits you to sit while performing it depends on the totality of the circumstances.
This means that the law looks at all the specific details regarding your job to conclude whether you are entitled to sit while working.
The specific details the law considers can include:
- Your relevant job tasks,
- The nature and layout of all locations where you perform your tasks,
- Your effectiveness and ability to perform each task while standing or sitting, and
- The likelihood that sitting would interfere with any of your other tasks.
Your entitlement to a seat might change throughout your shift, depending on the task you perform at the moment.
As Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy suggests in a hypothetical, a retail employee might be required to stand while stocking shelves but entitled to sit while working at the cash register.
How Does an Employer Provide Suitable Seating Under the California Suitable Seating Law?
In Meda v. AutoZone, Inc, the California Court of Appeal discussed factors for concluding whether an employer “provided” suitable seating.
The court noted that one way an employer can provide a seat to an employee is by placing a seat at the employee’s workstation. But this is not always required.
How an employer should provide seating can depend on:
- The nature of the employee’s job,
- How frequently an employee changes tasks,
- The physical layout of the workspace,
- The number of employees sharing the workspace, and
- The extent to which the location of seating might obstruct tasks or congest the workspace.
Analyzing whether an employer properly provided seating in a given work situation is very fact-intensive.
It is best to speak to an experienced employment attorney about whether your employer properly complied with California’s workplace chairs regulations.
Filing a Complaint
If your employer violates the suitable seating rules under one of California’s wage orders, you can file a lawsuit under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).
And if your employer fails to give you a reasonable seating accommodation under the ADA, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Whether you file an EEOC or PAGA complaint, your employer could have a defense if they can prove that providing seating would cause an undue hardship.
A skilled attorney can counter this defense with their arguments and maximize your recovery.
Our Attorneys Know How to Protect Your Well-Being at Work
Successfully asserting your right to sit at work requires a lot of attention to detail and deep understanding of the law.