Cashiers at Rite Aid are invoking California law in their request to be provided seating when their job does not require standing. AARP’s brief showed how workers’ health is improved when they are allowed to both sit and stand
California law requires employers to provide employees with suitable seats when the “nature of the work” allows it. Cashiers at Rite Aid have invoked this law in a challenge to their employers’ policies requiring them to stand while on duty. At least nine other states have statutes mandating that employers provide seats to employees if the jobs allow sitting down, and within California similar suits have been brought by bank tellers and cashiers in other businesses.
Cashiers at Rite Aid sued in a class action but a trial court decertified an order allowing the case to proceed as a class because, the court ruled, the cashiers had sufficient differences in the facts of their cases to warrant suing only in individual litigation. Individual litigation is often prohibitively expensive, particularly for lower income workers, with potential recoveries so small per person as to preclude the ability to attract competent legal help or put on an effective case with the expert evidence generally required. The workers appealed.
AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys filed AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the workers, pointing out the difficulties for aggrieved lower income workers in bringing individual lawsuits. 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 question regarding certification/decertification of the class was put to rest on appeal, when the appellate court allowed class certification. This is a preliminary win for the workers who will not have to worry about finding and paying for individual attorneys to bring litigation one-by-one.
What’s at Stake
Many states (including California) began enacting legislation to protect workers and allow them to sit as early as the late 1800s and early 1900s. While prolonged standing is an issue for workers of all ages, research indicates that the numerous health conditions that can be attributed to or exacerbated by prolonged standing can worsen with age — particularly musculoskeletal and venous disorders associated with standing.
The issue of class certification/decertification in Hall v. Rite Aid was decided by the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One and that case remains pending in the trial court. The California Supreme Court has recently issued a victory for workers in a decision.