Who wouldn’t want to get paid to sleep? It’s like the epitome of the American Dream. Employers don’t exactly like that kind of thing though, and getting caught taking a nap on the clock often can result in termination in many professions where alertness is central to one’s duties, as in the case of security services. A security guard in Brooklyn was recently caught snoozing on the job and was subsequently swiftly terminated. Yet that security guard has now launched a lawsuit which seeks to protect his right to sleep at work. Is this merely a case of someone seeking to profit off of their own laziness, or is there more at stake in this case?
This lawsuit is made interesting by the fact that Audie Delacruz, the 46-year-old security guard fired for napping, has sleep apnea, a broad class of common sleep disorders which cause individuals to briefly stop breathing throughout the night as they sleep. Individuals with sleep apnea often report feeling tired throughout the day no matter how much sleep they get, and there are a wide range of dangerous health complications linked to sleep apnea. Thus, the need for a person with sleep apnea to nap throughout the day could be argued to be much higher than other individuals’. That’s Delacruz’ and his lawyers argument anyway.
As it turns out, Delacruz claims he only ever naps while in the locker room in between shifts at work. Delacruz has worked in the security services industry for 25 years and is now filing a lawsuit against Allied Universal Security Services for wrongfully terminating him over what he claims is a disability: sleep apnea. his lawyer, Jeffrey Risman, told the New York Daily News that “Mr. Delacruz is part of a protected class with a well-known disability:”
He was punished for taking advantage of a lunch break to rest and recharge. Instead of accommodating Mr. Delacruz’s disability, Allied terminated and humiliated him. Mr. Delacruz was and remains extremely distraught with how his termination played out. He was in the business of protecting individuals, yet the company he devoted nearly a decade to failed to protect him.
This case brings up some interesting questions about sleep apnea and how it is perceived and treated. Is sleep apnea a disability, and should accommodations be made for individuals with the sleep disorder to nap throughout the day?