Employees may be disciplined for sleeping on duty only if:
• They are actually asleep at a time when they should be attending to their duties;
• The employee’s unconsciousness was not caused by some cause beyond his or her control;
• The employee was or should have been aware at the time that sleeping constituted a disciplinary offence.
Arbitrators have been ready to accept circumstantial evidence in such cases, such as snoring, the posture of the employee at the time he was spotted. If employees fall asleep as a result of work-related exhaustion or because they are on sleep-inducing medication, they will not generally be guilty of misconduct, unless they could and should have brought their condition to the attention of the employer.
Sleeping on duty will rarely be regarded as an offence justifying dismissal at first instance, except if the employee is a security guard or is in a position where a momentary lapse in concentration could have serious consequences for the employer or other workers.
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