while on subject

Sleeping while on duty

Sleeping while on duty or "sleeping on the job" refers to falling asleep while on the timeclock or equivalent, or else while responsible to be performing some active or passive job duty. In some workplaces, this is considered gross misconduct and may be grounds for disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment. In other types of work, such as firefighting or live-in caregiving, sleeping at least part of the shift may be a part of the paid work time. While some employees who sleep while on duty in violation do so intentionally and hope not to get caught, others intend in good faith to stay awake, and accidentally doze.


The frequency of sleeping while on duty that occurs varies, depending on the time of day. Daytime employees are more likely to take short naps, while graveyard shift workers have a higher likelihood of sleeping for a large portion of their shift, sometimes intentionally.

A survey by the National Sleep Foundation has found that 30% of participants have admitted to sleeping while on duty.


Employers have varying views of sleeping while on duty. Some companies have instituted policies to allow employees to take napping breaks during the workday in order to improve productivity while others are strict when dealing with employees who sleep while on duty and use high-tech means, such as video surveillance, to catch their employees who may be sleeping on the job. Those who are caught in violation may face disciplinary action such as suspension or firing.

Some employees sleep or nap only during their allotted break time at work. This may or may not be permitted, depending on the employer's policies. Some employers may prohibit sleeping, even during unpaid break time, for various reasons, such as the unprofessional appearance of a sleeping employee, the need for an employee to be available during an emergency, or legal regulations. Employees who may endanger others by sleeping on the job may face more serious consequences, such as legal sanctions. For example, airline pilots risk loss of their licenses.

In war time, if a sentry falls asleep on duty, he may face the death penalty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Notable/media-reported incidents

In February 2008, the pilots on a go! flight were suspended during an investigation when it was suspected they fell asleep mid-flight, resulting in them overshooting the airport.

In October 2007, four Italian air traffic controllers were suspended after they were caught asleep while on duty.

Also in October 2007, a CBS news story revealed nearly a dozen security guards at a nuclear power plant who were videotaped sleeping while on duty.

On August 2, 1999, Pittsburgh's WPXI News covered a story on two city employees who were filmed by the network spending an hour of their work day sleeping in a city park. The employees, who had the duty of searching for falling rock hazards around the city, stated that they were doing their job, and that their nap was part of their unpaid lunch hour. Their salaries, along with the vehicle they used for the job, were funded with taxes, according to the report.

On December 14, 1947, a Washington, D.C. police officer was fined $75 for sleeping while on duty.


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