In California, almost every national chain is experiencing some form of lawsuit addressing a failure to offer employees and customers “suitable seating” when the workers perform the majority of their daily tasks standing up.
A California labor law has been dug out of the bowels of the legal archives and has creative trial attorneys across the state using it for legal attacks. The law requires retailers such as Target, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart to have enough seats available for all of their workers.
Outwardly, it would seem that there isn’t much more than a nuisance being generated by the allegations. However, as a result of two recent appeals court rulings that have permitted employees and their attorneys to use the “private attorney general” provision in California, and the result is building the damages paid by retailers into the range of millions of dollars.
Even a first violation can bring about fines as high as $100 per employee who worked during the pay period in question. In the case of subsequent violations, the maximum fine doubles.
According to lawyers, for retailers such as big-box stores, who have hundreds of thousands of employees in California alone, these penalties can rapidly add up.
Attorney representing a number of the retailers in question, Eric Steinert, said that this is an uncharted legal area. He went on to explain that he hasn’t any doubt that this type of lawsuit has set in as a wave. “You are seeing some attorneys moving into this area who previously didn’t pay attention to workplace issues.”