Topics Wage/Hour

California Court of Appeals Provides Guidance on State's Requirement to Provide Seating to Employees

Date   Aug 23, 2022

Executive Summary: Recently, the California appellate court provided guidance on how employers may comply with the Golden State’s workplace seating requirement. While the court found that the inquiry is fact-intensive and involves a multitude of job- and workplace-specific factors, the court’s opinion suggests employers should use a commonsense approach when providing seating to their employees, including an inquiry into how employers can meaningfully provide seats to their employees. The opinion, issued July 19, 2022, is Meda v. AutoZone.

The underlying case involved a claim brought under California’s Private Attorney’s General Act, claiming that the defendant, a retailer, failed to provide suitable seating at its cashier and parts counter workstations. In California, the state maintains a set of regulations that require employers to provide their employees “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” In its defense, the retailer argued it complied with the seating requirement because it maintained two raised chairs (which were tall enough to use at the counter workstations) in the store in the manager’s office, which was open and accessible to all employees, including the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the employer only made the chairs available as an accommodation and never informed employees they could use the seats at their workstations. The trial court agreed with the employer, surmising that simply providing accessible chairs in the store was enough to meet California’s seating requirement, and granted summary judgment in favor of the employer.

On appeal, however, the appellate court rejected the employer’s approach to providing seating, reversing the lower court’s summary judgment order. In doing so, the appellate court first noted how prior seating decisions utilized fact-specific assessments when examining the seating requirement. This included the fact that “every workplace is different, and a variety of factors may impact how an employer could ‘provide’ suitable seating at a particular workstation.” For instance, a court may consider “the nature of an employee’s job responsibilities, how frequently an employee changes tasks, the physical layout of the workspace, the number of employees sharing a workstation, and the extent to which the location of a seat at or near a workstation may obstruct employee’s tasks or cause congestion … .”

Applying this approach to the present case, the appellate court ultimately found that simply providing seats in the store was but one factor in determining whether the retailer complied with the state’s seating requirement. However, the facts also revealed that the employer did not place seats at or within the immediate vicinity of employee workstations, requiring employees to leave the front counters and walk to the back of the store to locate and move a chair to their workstations. The facts also revealed that the retailer did not directly advise its employees that seats were available for use or include the seating policy in its employee handbook. Additionally, the appellate court noted that the placement of the chairs “in or just outside” the manager’s office could lead a reasonable trier of fact to conclude the chairs were specifically to be used there, and not at the front counter areas. Finally, because no other employee ever used a chair at the front workstations, a factfinder could interpret this to mean that the store either prohibited or discouraged the use of seats at the front, regardless of its policy.

While the court acknowledged that the plaintiff’s unrestricted access to the chairs was a relevant consideration, it noted that this factor alone was not conclusive when considering the totality of facts before it.

Overall, the appellate court’s ruling suggests that compliance with the state’s seating requirements requires a commonsense approach – while the inquiry remains fact-intensive and job-specific, employers should look at whether employees are being meaningfully provided with seating. 

Employers’ Bottom Line:

Under this decision, the seating requirement remains a fact-intensive and job-specific inquiry. That said, when seating must be provided, employers should ensure they take steps that show how, as a matter of both policy and practice, employees are being provided with seating. For instance, employers may need to consider the proximity of a seat to an employee’s workstation, as well as how employees are made aware of the availability of seating. Simply saying that chairs are present at the worksite, without more, may not be sufficient for compliance purposes. 

If you have any questions regarding this Alert, the state’s seating requirement, or other laws impacting California employers, please contact the authors of this Alert, David L. Cheng, partner in our Los Angeles office at and Lawrence J. Geist, attorney in our San Diego office at Of course, you can always contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.