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Suitable Seating: Totality of the Circumstances Inquiry

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August 21, 2017
Elizabeth Arnold and Chester Hanvey
BRG white paper

The California Supreme Court’s 2016 opinion on suitable seating requirements provided clarity regarding the factors that should be considered when evaluating an employer’s compliance. Elizabeth Arnold and Chester Hanvey review the opinion and discuss factors that are relevant to the Totality of the Circumstances inquiry. In this paper, they present scientifically sound methods that help to generate valid and reliable data for an objective evaluation of the relevant factors.


On April 4, 2016, the California Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated opinion that clarified many important aspects of the suitable seating requirements... This Supreme Court opinion provided guidance to employers on how to evaluate whether they have a legal obligation to provide seats for their employees. Specifically, the Supreme Court outlined several factors that, in totality (i.e., “Totality of the Circumstances”), guide employers and the courts on suitable seating requirements. Because no suitable seating cases have been litigated since this opinion (as of the time of this writing), this opinion serves as the primary authoritative source for how to properly evaluate suitable seating requirements.

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