MoFo News Item

Morrison & Foerster Successfully Defends Ralphs Grocery Company In Landmark Employment Trial

The first Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) suitable seating case successfully defends employer practices.

20 Mar 2020

A team of Morrison & Foerster Labor & Employment litigators won a complete defense verdict for client Ralphs Grocery Company (Ralphs) in a March 20, 2020 decision filed in the Superior Court of the State of California.

This is the first suitable seating case to go to trial since the California Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. that weighed in on the meaning of a provision in the California Wage Orders obligating employers to provide their employees with suitable seats when the nature of the work permits the use of seats.

In LaFace v. Ralphs Grocery Company, the plaintiff claimed Ralphs owed substantial civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) because Ralphs does not provide seats to cashiers while they work in the checkstands.

At the conclusion of 13 days of trial, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Nieto ruled from the bench that the nature of work of Ralphs cashiers does not reasonably permit the use of seats, ending more than three years of litigation.

“We are proud of the work the Morrison & Foerster team did on behalf of Ralphs,” said Steven J. Prough, Vice President, Legal Services at Ralphs Grocery Company. “Safety is a Core Value at Ralphs. Safety of our associates and our customers is critical, and we’re glad that the judge understood how adding a seat to checkstands would create an issue.”

“This trial victory for Ralphs is a game-changer for employers facing PAGA suitable seating lawsuits,” said Tritia Murata, one of the partners who defended Ralphs at trial. “In applying Kilby, the touchstone is reasonableness. The law does not require an employer to change the nature of the work performed, or change the configurations of its workstations, to accommodate seating.”

In addition to Tritia, the Morrison & Foerster trial team included partner Wendy Ray; senior counsel Karen Kubin; of counsel James Boddy; and associates Maya Harel, David Zins, and David Papas.



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