For more information please call  800.727.2766


Sleeping on the Job Justifiable Basis for Termination

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a diabetic employee who was fired after he was found sleeping on the job.
George Charles Clark, an insulin-dependent Type II diabetic, worked as a personnel manager for Champion National Security, Inc. He received two accommodations for his diabetes: an office refrigerator for his insulin and flexible scheduling for his doctor’s appointments. He had requested an exemption to the grooming requirements but was denied because there was no demonstrated connection to his diabetes. Champion had an “alertness” requirement for its employees and had previously terminated employees who slept or appeared to sleep while at work. Clark’s supervisor received notice that Clark had been seen asleep on two occasions. When it happened a third time, the manager observed it and took a picture. Although he appeared fine to witnesses, Clark asserted it was due to a diabetic emergency. The manager fired him.
Clark sued for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He argued that his employer should have determined if there was a medical reason underlying his being asleep on the job. The appellate court rejected this argument, asserting that the ADA did not protect employees from discipline for misconduct. An “after-the-fact, retroactive exception to the alertness policy” was not considered a reasonable ADA accommodation. The employee had not requested any accommodation for falling asleep at work, and the employer was not required to anticipate the possible effects of his diabetes. Clark was also found not to be qualified for his position because he could not perform it while asleep, as staying awake is an essential function of almost every job. The manager’s reasonable belief that misconduct had occurred based on reports and his own observation was consistent with other terminations and supported the basis for termination.