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Can Your Biz Ban Naptime at Work?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lunch breaks are for eating, not sleeping. Right?

That was the rationale of Los Angeles sanitation officials, at least, when they passed a rule prohibiting sanitation workers from taking naps on their lunch breaks. The officials feared the bad publicity that could arise from members of the public seeing city workers sleeping in the middle of the day. Workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, saying that the policy robbed them of their lunch breaks. The city recently agreed to settle the suit for $26 million, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Does that mean it's illegal to prohibit naps at work?

Calif. Law: Lunch Break Can Be Nap Break

There is no federal law governing employee meal breaks and state laws regarding meal breaks vary. However, in California, employers not only must give employees who work more than six hours in a day the option to take a 30-minute lunch break, but the employee must be relieved of all duty during those 30 minutes.

This means that, in California at least, whether an employee is looking for a sandwich or some shut-eye, how he spends his or her 30 minute break is generally up to the employee.

When Do You Have to Pay an Employee to Sleep?

Although you may be obligated to allow employees to nap on their breaks, you generally aren't required to allow them to nap on the clock

There may be certain instances, however, when you may be obligated to not only allow an employee to sleep on the job, but pay him for it as well. If an employee is working a 24-hour shift (such as an ambulance driver, security guard, or caregiver) he generally must be allowed to sleep during such a shift, while still being paid for his of her time.

But even when you're not obligated to allow employees a little time for some mid-shift naptime, doing so anyway may not be such a bad idea. Even a 15 to 20 minute nap can provide a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.

  • Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult with an experienced business attorney about your options.

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