In California, Section 14 of the Industrial Welfare Commission wage order No. 7-2001, provides that an employee is entitled to use a seat while working if the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of a seat. An employer is required, in that circumstance, to provide the employee with a suitable seat.
Monica Meda worked as a sales associate for about six months at an AutoZone auto parts store operated by AutoZoners. She assisted customers at the parts counter by answering questions and locating parts. She also operated the cash register, cleaned the store, moved merchandise around the store, and stocked shelves.
After she resigned from her position, plaintiff filed the present suit asserting one claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. She asserts AutoZoners failed to provide suitable seating to employees at the cashier and parts counter workstations, as to which some or all of the work required could be performed while sitting.
AutoZoners moved for summary judgment, arguing plaintiff lacked standing to bring a representative action under PAGA because she was not aggrieved by AutoZoners’s seating policy. Specifically, AutoZoners contends it satisfied the seating requirement by making two chairs available to its associates. The chairs were not placed at the cashier or parts counter workstations but were in, or just outside, the manager’s office.
In opposition to the summary judgment motion, Meda contended AutoZoners did not “provide” seating as required because no one told her chairs were available for use at the front counter workstations, she never saw anyone else use a chair at those workstations, and she was only given the option to use a chair as an accommodation after an on-the-job injury.
The trial court agreed with AutoZoners, granted the motion, and entered judgment accordingly. The Court of Appeal reversed in the published decision of Meda v Autozoners – B311398 (July 2022)
No published California authority has considered what steps should be taken by an employer to “provide” suitable seating within the meaning of the wage order seating requirement.
The Court of Appeal concluded in this case of first impression “that where an employer has not expressly advised its employees that they may use a seat during their work and has not provided a seat at a workstation, the inquiry as to whether an employer has “provided” suitable seating may be fact-intensive and may involve a multitude of job and workplace-specific factors.”
“Accordingly, resolution of the issue at the summary judgment stage may be inappropriate, as it was here.”
“Because the undisputed facts create a triable issue of material fact as to whether AutoZoners “provided” suitable seating to its customer service employees at the front of the store by placing seats at other workstations in a separate area of the store, we conclude the court erred in granting the motion for summary judgment.”