How should you deal with an on-the job sleeper?

What discipline is proper for an employee caught sleeping on the job? Dismissal? Suspension? Or should each case be decided on its merit? "In general," says Educator/Consultant/Arbitrator Leonard J.
By Raymond Dreyfack April 1, 1998

What discipline is proper for an employee caught sleeping on the job? Dismissal? Suspension? Or should each case be decided on its merit?

“In general,” says Educator/Consultant/Arbitrator Leonard J. Smith, “where a no-sleeping rule is strictly enforced, discharge for its violation is justified in principle. But in practice, extenuating circumstances can play a determining role.”

Where the level of discipline is uncertain, these tips from Smith may be helpful:

1. Take the employee’s performance record into consideration

2. Determine the employee’s degree of responsibility at the time of the infraction

3. Strive for consistency.

Failing to observe No. 3 in particular can trip you up.

Boiler Room Attendant Harry Shuler was fast asleep inside a packing case one day when Maintenance Supervisor Bill Grafton passed by. Shuler was an above-average employee, but a high meter reading approaching the red danger point indication, added gravity to the offense. Remedial action was called for. If too much more time elapsed without an adjustment being made, an explosion might occur.

Grafton angrily jostled Shuler awake. “That’s it, pal, you’ve had it!”

By the time Shuler sleepily got his bearings, Grafton was halfway across the room.

Question: Under the circumstances, do you think Shuler deserves to be discharged?

Price’s verdict: Plant Engineer Frank Price agreed with Grafton that Shuler’s violation of the company’s no-sleeping rule called for the ultimate penalty.

“But before issuing a dismissal notice, I think we should take a closer look at the man’s record.”

When this was done, the dismissal penalty was reduced to a two-week suspension. On past occasions, it was disclosed, discipline short of discharge had been imposed on employees found guilty of similar sleeping rule violations.