A tired worker is a potentially unsafe worker. So, you’d think it’d be more important to have well rested employees than to be concerned about images of workers sleeping during their meal breaks.
That’s what you’d think. But it took a multi-million dollar lawsuit for officials in Los Angeles to learn that lesson.
L.A. officials had imposed strict rules regarding what sanitation workers could and couldn’t do on their meal breaks. One of the rules: They couldn’t nap.
Reason: to avoid bad publicity if a resident, business owner or TV news crew witnessed napping workers.
The sanitation workers sued. Just recently, L.A. approved settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving nearly 1,100 sanitation workers to the tune of $26 million.
The settlement will provide each worker an average of $15,000 in lost wages. Lawyers for the drivers get to take home $8.7 million in legal fees.
‘I don’t need a nap, so you don’t need one either’
L.A. City Council had to approve the settlement before it became final. Council voted 9-2 to accept the agreement.
Joe Bascaino, a former police officer, was one of the two councilmen who voted against the settlement.
The LA Times quoted a spokesman for Bascaino regarding the councilman’s vote: “As police officer, he never needed to sleep in his car. As a councilman, he never sleeps in his office.”
The spokesman said the councilman voted in line with what his constituents would want.
Would those constituents want a sleep-deprived sanitation truck driver to crash into a crowd of people, resulting in fatalities and subsequent costly lawsuits against the city? That certainly wouldn’t contribute to public safety.
Not all sleep-deprived workers are party animals who stayed out late the night before. There are any number of reasons for missed sleep, including:
- taking care of a sick child or elderly parent overnight
- dealing with undiagnosed sleep apnea, or
- being kept awake by body aches or pains.
No one should underestimate what could be gained by a short nap during a 30-minute meal break. Research shows even 20-minute naps can improve alertness, and therefore worker safety.
And the worker would still have 10 minutes left over to grab a quick bite to eat.
What do you think about allowing workers to nap on their breaks? Let us know in the comments.