A recently filed class action lawsuit asks a court to award Disneyland workers more than $5 million in penalties (by Disney’s calculation) because Disney Parks (the employer) failed to provide “suitable seating” for Disney employees.
The lawsuit asks the court to apply California’s “Industrial Welfare Commission” (“IWC”) Wage Order 7-2001 which provides:
A. All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.
B. When employees are not engaged in the active duties of their employment and the nature of the work requires standing, an adequate number of suitable seats shall be placed in reasonable proximity to the work area and employees shall be permitted to use such seats when it does not interfere with the performance of their duties.
Two recent California court of appeals decisions have permitted employees to sue retail stores. The purported class action against Disneyland is one of the latest suits alleging an employer failed to provide “suitable seats.”
California’s Labor Code permits employees who claim they have been unreasonably denied “suitable seats” with a private right of action to sue for civil penalties of up to $200 per employee, per pay period. If penalties are awarded, 25% go to the employees and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency receives the rest. The class lawsuit purports to be filed on behalf of all of Disney’s California employees, including “cashiers, retail sales clerks, attractions clerks, merchandise clerks, food operations clerks, or costuming clerks” who worked ” in standing positions and were not provided with a seat.”
The lawsuit was originally filed in state court but Disney recently removed it to federal court. In the legal papers, Disneyland asserted:
The Complaint in this “suitable seating” class action suffers from two extremely broad and distinctly fatal premises. First, it incorrectly presumes that the Disneyland Resort – one of the busiest workplaces in California – actually affords plenty of time for on-duty employees to take a seat without any negative repercussions for Disney or its guests. Second, it describes a sprawling class – comprising thousands of WDPR employees, working in hundreds of architecturally and functionally different locations and performing equally varied jobs – but then presumes a single common answer for whether all these employees’ seating arrangements are lawful.
It seems doubtful the “suitable seating” regulation was really meant to cover most theme park type of work. One regulatory interpretation explained that the regulation was established “to cover situations where the work is usually performed in a sitting position with machinery, tools or other equipment,” but not “those positions where the duties require employees to be on their feet, such as sales persons in the mercantile industry.”
Because the claims are based only on California law, the lawsuit only applies to Disney’s California employees. It would not cover or affect employees at Walt Disney World in Florida.