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California Top Court Upholds Workers Right to Sit Down

Read AARP's Amicus Brief (PDF)

The California Supreme Court’s consolidated decision in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy and Henderson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank requires California employers to provide employees with suitable seats when the “nature of the work” allows it. In a victory for workers, and relying on California regulations, the Court noted that even if part of a worker’s job requires standing, e.g., stacking shelves, workers still must be provided seats when they can perform their job while seated. The Court also noted that many standing jobs have “lulls in operation,” and that employees should be allowed to sit during those periods.

AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys filed AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the workers, pointing out that older workers are the nation's fastest growing segment of the working population and the number of workers 50+ is expected to increase to 57.9 million by 2022. The brief also highlighted the numerous studies, reports and academic research that document health problems associated with prolonged uninterrupted standing. There is a scientific consensus that workstations should be set up to allow workers to both sit and stand. The California Supreme Court discussed a variety of workers, bank tellers, retail workers, teenage gift wrappers and others who should be allowed to sit down if reasonable to do so.

The specific cases before the Court involved a customer service representative for CVS Pharmacy and bank tellers at JPMorgan Chase Bank. The Court discussing California labor regulations noted that the history of California’s wage orders reflect a determination that ”humane consideration for the welfare of employees requires that they be allowed to sit at their work or between operations when it is feasible for them to do so.”  Employers must provide all employees, regardless of their physical condition, the opportunity to sit down when it is reasonable to do so.

What’s at Stake

States (including California) began enacting legislation to protect workers and allow them to sit as early as the late 1800s and early 1900s. Prolonged standing can cause health problems for workers of all ages.  Allowing workers to both sit and stand will benefit workers of all ages work without jeopardizing their health.