Arbitrator overturns sleeping suspension

Supervisors thought worker was sleeping on the job, but nobody bothered to actually approach him to check

An arbitrator has overturned a two-day unpaid suspension imposed on a worker after he allegedly fell asleep on the job.

The arbitrator said the suspension wasn’t justified because the company simply didn’t have any evidence the worker was in fact asleep.

Dozing on the job?

The worker, an employee at Hendrickson Spring in Stratford, Ont., received a two-day suspension for allegedly sleeping on company time on March 4, 2005. On that date, supervisors saw the worker at 6:44 a.m. sitting on a chair in the cafeteria with his eyes closed and his head down on his folded arms on the table.

The supervisor saw him only briefly and did not approach him to confirm he had actually been asleep. The worker claimed he was merely resting near the end of his shift, which finished at 7 a.m. The employer’s work rules specify a suspension for sleeping on company work time.

So, from the arbitrator’s point of view, the question was, simply, had the company established that the worker was actually asleep when he was spotted in the cafeteria by the supervisors.

“The (supervisor) who gave evidence at the hearing candidly acknowledged that, while the (worker) appeared to be asleep and they assumed him to be, all he could actually confirm was that, in their brief observation of him, he was sitting in the cafeteria with his head down on his arms and his eyes closed,” said the arbitrator. “Again, they did not approach him to confirm that he was actually asleep.”

Based on that, the arbitrator said it wasn’t possible to conclude whether the worker was in fact asleep.

The arbitrator did raise a question about what the worker was doing in the cafeteria shortly before his shift ended. But the company didn’t suspend him for taking a break at an inappropriate time, it did so for sleeping on the job.

Therefore, the suspension was not justified. The arbitrator ordered the company to remove the suspension from his record and to compensate the worker for the loss of two days’ pay as a result of the suspension.

For more information see:

Hendrickson Spring Stratford Operations v. U.S.W.A., Local 877, 2006 CarswellOnt 787 (Ont. Arb. Bd.)

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