Missouri employees may want to re-think their sleeping habits after a recent decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals in Nickless v. Saint Gobain Containers, Inc. In that case, an employee was discharged after a co-worker found him asleep on the job. The employee thereafter filed a claim for unemployment benefits and the employer protested, claiming the employee had been discharged for misconduct. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission sided with the employer and found that the employee was disqualified from receiving benefits.
Section 288.050.2, RSMo., provides that if “a claimant has been discharged for misconduct connected with the claimant’s work, such claimant shall be disqualified” from receiving unemployment benefits. “Misconduct” is defined as an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest, a deliberate violation of the employer’s rules, a disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his or her employee, or negligence in such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer. See Section 288.030(23), RSMo. (emphasis added).
In analyzing whether sleeping on the job constitutes misconduct for purposes of Section 288.030(23), the Missouri Court of Appeals noted that no Missouri case had previously addressed the issue. However, the court made clear that “the idea of sleeping on the job is anything other than misconduct is absurd.” Indeed, “[e]mployers have a right to expect that employees are engaged in meaningful work while being paid by the employer. Certainly employers have a right to expect employees to be conscious during their scheduled shifts. Sleeping on the job would be a ‘conscious’ disregard of that standard.” (citations omitted). Accordingly, the court held that sleeping on the job is misconduct because it constitutes “a disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has a right to expect of his or her employee.”