In recent California news, Bank of America has decided to settle a class action over suitable seating for bank tellers for a reported $15 million. The settlement includes a deal requiring the bank to offer proper seats for tellers at their various California bank branches.
The settlement was approved by Alameda Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith on October 28th, 2016. The Private Attorneys General Act claim covered all nonexempt Bank of America tellers in the state of California that were employed by the financial institution between March 2, 2010 and the date of the settlement approval. 75% of civil penalties remaining after deducting attorneys’ fees and costs will go to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The other 25% will go to Bank of America’s California tellers according to designated terms. The deal requires that Bank of America ensure all California bank branches have appropriate seat for tellers to use at their workstations within 60 days of the judgment entry.
Attorneys representing the bank in a federal suit moved to dismiss that case with prejudice in light of the deal that was reached, noting that the details of the state case’s settlement included the time period and tellers from the earlier federal action.
The action was up on appeal before the Ninth Circuit twice, but in both instances, the lower court’s dismissal of the action was dismissed. In February 2013, the appeals court stated the U.S. District Judge Real wrongly found that employees must request seats before they are provided and remanded for further proceedings. In May 2013, the suit was dismissed again on the grounds of preemption by the federal National Banking Act and the plaintiffs’ failure to properly exhaust the available administrative solutions. This dismissal was also reversed by the Ninth Circuit in October 2015. They found there was no indication that the applicable California wage order would pose a significant disturbance to the National Banking Act’s functions or purposes. It was also found that the plaintiffs did properly exhaust available administrative remedies when they offered written notice of claims to both the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the bank.
The tellers, of course, seek to make the order precedential, as the first ruling affirmatively stating the content that satisfies California Labor Code requirements for notification.
The original class action was filed in April 2011 by former Bank of America tellers, Green and Giddings. They accused the bank of making them stand even though it was in violation of the wage order and there was plenty of room in the workspace for appropriate seating. Similar suits have been brought against large retailers throughout California since 2009.