Last Monday, the California Supreme Court in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. clarified the meaning of California’s requirement that all working employees be provided with suitable seating “when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” Answering three questions raised by the Ninth Circuit, the Court ruled that:
(1) The “nature of the work” refers to an employee’s tasks performed at a given location for which a right to a suitable seat is claimed, rather than a “holistic” consideration of the entire range of an employee’s duties anywhere on the jobsite during a complete shift. If the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for;
(2) Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances. An employer’s business judgment and the physical layout of the workplace are relevant but not dispositive factors. The inquiry focuses on the nature of the work, not an individual employee’s characteristics; and
(3) The nature of the work aside, if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.