Walmart has agreed to pay $65 million to settle a class action suit that has been pending for almost a decade. If approved, around 100,000 Walmart cashiers, some of whom have since left the company, may be eligible for a payout. The payout could be up to around $1,000 for cashiers who remained at Walmart for a number of years.
The dispute centers around a California-specific requirement that mandates employers in this state provide seating to employees whenever the nature of their work reasonably permits the employer to do so.
Walmart has argued, and maintains, that the nature of their cashiers’ work does not reasonably allow for seating. However, acknowledging that a jury may well disagree with the company’s position, the company has agreed to the payout and has also agreed to try offering seats to cashiers on an experimental basis, but only to those cashiers who specifically request it.
Given the law under which this case was filed, a state agency may well receive the largest portion of the proceeds, since the suit was at least in theory filed on behalf of the state. Other employees who wanted seating accommodations have prevailed in lawsuits against other major retail chains, and more suits are either pending or may be forthcoming.
This case illustrates that, in many situations, California employers have to do more than just avoid certain prohibited behavior. In many cases, employers have a duty to affirmatively provide employees with a safe and even comfortable work environment so as not to run afoul of this state’s employment discrimination and other laws.