The California Labor Code has an obscure provision referring to an order issued by the Industrial Welfare Commission. It states:
“All working employees shall provide suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats. When employees are not engaged in the duties of their employment and the nature of the work requires standing, an adequate number of suitable seats shall be placed in reasonable proximity to the work area and the employees shall be permitted to use such seats when it does not interfere with the performance of their duties.”
On the surface this may not appear to be a big deal especially depending on the type of work environment that you may have. However, be advised that this issue is on the rise from when I wrote about it last year. There have been two appellate court decisions that have attorneys who represent employees racing to court. The penalties for a first violation can be as much as $100.00 per employee per payroll period and double that for future violations.
My concern is the use of such words as “adequate number,” “suitable seating,” and “reasonable proximity.” As usual, this type of regulation does not clearly spell out the expectation so it leaves the door open to litigation. In addition, it creates another internal issue for employers to have to deal with frivolous complaints from employees who may state that they require a “special chair” due to some physical issue that they may be experiencing (or not!).
This issue may not have an impact on every industry but it certainly can create a problem for manufacturers with an assembly line, retailers, automobile dealers, warehouse environments, and the hospitality industry.
Employers must understand that a number of these issues that launch these class action lawsuits can be avoided by simply reading the industrial welfare commission orders (IWC) and making sure their managers are following it to the letter. Don’t just rely on those laminated posters that you get every year. They do not cover California Wage & Hour laws which are the basis for these lawsuits. If you do not have the IWC orders (they are industry specific) posted you can find it on line on the California government website and simply print it out.