In October 2019, a judge in California approved the payment of $12 million for a class action lawsuit against Safeway on behalf of checkout clerks, who argued that Safeway was violating state law by failing to provide “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” As a result of the settlement, Safeway will pay $12 million and more than 30,000 Safeway employees will be entitled to seating.
Plaintiff argued that the grocery chain violated California state labor laws by forcing cashiers to stand for long hours and by refusing to provide access to seats or chairs during worker’s shifts. The suit, originally filed in 2011, was on hold until the California Supreme Court reviewed similar lawsuits against other large employers. Then, in 2016, the state supreme court reached a unanimous decision, ruling that employees who can successfully do their jobs while seated are entitled to seating. After Safeway failed in dismissing the suit, the company made the decision to enter into settlement negotiations. In addition to agreeing to pay $12 million in settlement funds, the grocery chain has agreed to provide 30,000 of its checkout clerks with access to seats starting in 2020. After at least two years, Safeway can request that the policy be reversed or altered if it can prove it is harmful to business or employees.
The judge’s order recognized the higher than usual attorneys’ fees and service award, indicating that the hard work by the lead plaintiff and her attorneys justified the amount. Ultimately, the judge approved the payment by concluding that the settlement was “fair, reasonable and adequate.”