Are Employers Required To Supply Ergonomic Chairs And Desks?

are employers required supply ergonomic chairs desks office furniture

Whether you’re working from home or at the office, you want to be as safe and comfortable as possible. For some people, this can mean using ergonomic supports such as specialized chairs and desks. Many companies have decided to include these in their work settings, but others haven’t made this move. Though it’s definitely a good idea to have them in the workplace, are employers legally required to provide them for their employees? 

Do employers have to supply ergonomic solutions? The short answer to this is “no”. At this time, there is no strict law stating that an employer must provide their employees with chairs and desks that offer ergonomic support. While this hasn’t made it into the law books (yet), the need and pressure for changes in this area has increased a great deal. It has become apparent that there are many benefits to using such furniture in the workplace or in the home office. 

The Benefits Of Using Ergonomic For Work-Related Duties 

There are several advantages to employees using ergonomic desks and chairs while they’re working. 

1. A large number of workplace injuries occur as a result of “unsafe and outdated office furniture”. This is because it doesn’t support posture and it tends to be too hard or too soft, leading to worse posture issues. When sitting at a desk, an individual often will hunch over and this leads to neck and back strain. It also can cause issues with the hands and wrists including carpal tunnel syndrome. 

2. Ergonomic furniture has been designed to promote comfort and efficiency. For instance, these chairs keep the user’s body in an upright, safe position. In turn, this helps reduce stress on the individual’s hips, spine, and neck. 

3. Less pain means greater productivity. When employees are at their best health wise, they’re more likely to have fewer distractions and work efficiently. When people have less injuries at work, they won’t miss as many days as well. 

Europe vs. The United States 

Many European countries are ahead of the game when it comes to ergonomic solutions. For example, several Scandinavian and other countries in Europe have a legal requirement for employers to offer sit-stand workstations for people who have sedentary jobs. 

Even though this is the case, California has made strides in this area. They’ve already put in place an employment law that “all working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats”. This only has been strengthened through legal precedent in the last few years. 

One such class action lawsuit brought under the California’s Private Attorneys General Act was against Walmart. The group who won this case was awarded a total of $65 million for the fact that they were proven to have failed at providing employees with adequate seating. 

Past lawsuits usually were related to on-the-job injury claims. Such individuals experienced an injury from a faulty chair design, or they had a pre-existing condition, and their requests were denied for proper ergonomic support furniture. A new type of class action suit that has arisen after the Kirby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. lawsuit of 2016 is one that presses for a legal requirement for “suitable seating for working employees”. 

We’ll certainly see a number of these until more changes are made and it won’t stop with California. This will prompt other states to take action and for groups to lobby for these considerations on behalf of employees. The more states support this and pass relevant laws, the more likely it is that there will be federal legislation and rulings for suitable workplace seating.

Comfortable Seating While Working From Home 

On the other side of this but on a related note, more people than ever before are working from home who are not “self-employed”. This sudden shift due to the pandemic has been a cause for concern for numerous reasons. For one, many of these individuals did not have a home that was equipped already for work-related tasks. This includes a computer and headset if taking part in a large number of calls or virtual meetings, but also desks or comparable furniture to set up a computer and paperwork as well as a comfortable chair. 

Many businesses have come up with solutions to ease this burden on their employees. It has been a difficult transition for nearly everyone and some companies have come up with a home-office fund. The amounts differ but the general idea is the same: it gives remote employees the ability to purchase a computer, desk, chair, allowance for Wi-Fi and more. Whether this amount will be enough to cover the full cost of ergonomic products is uncertain, but it definitely goes a long way to help. 

Even though it isn’t mandatory for employers to set up ergonomic chairs and desks in their buildings (or pay for it for those employees who are working from home), there has been much progress towards laws that protect the health and mental-wellbeing of employees with better seating and standing support and prevent certain work-related injury. This is sure to improve in the coming years.

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