Employee Sleeping at Work
Common HR Questions
Q: My administrative assistant was found asleep at her workstation 3 times in a month! So I spoke with her and I found out that a prescription medication she’s taking is making her extremely drowsy.
To get a handle on problems like this, I’m going to ask all my employees to give me a list of the prescription medications they are taking. Should I do this?
A: No, asking all employees about the prescription medications they are taking would be considered a disability-related inquiry under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A request for such information is generally not job-related and consistent with business necessity, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In limited circumstances, however, certain employers may be able to demonstrate that it is job-related and consistent with business necessity to require employees in positions affecting public safety to report when they are taking medication that may affect their ability to perform essential functions. Under these limited circumstances, an employer must be able to demonstrate that an employee’s inability or impaired ability to perform essential functions will result in a direct threat.
For example, a police department could require armed officers to report when they are taking medications that may affect their ability to use a firearm or to perform other essential functions of their job. A fire department, however, could not require fire department employees who perform only administrative duties to report their use of medications because it is unlikely that it could show that these employees would pose a direct threat as a result of their inability or impaired ability to perform their essential job functions.
MEA’s goal is to provide current, detailed and useful information to HOTLINE callers, but our responses do not constitute legal advice about what you should or should not do in a particular situation. You should always consult legal counsel, in the context of a confidential attorney-client relationship, before taking any action that could have legal implications for you or your business. If legal services are needed, MEA members are entitled to a discounted fee arrangement with the Powell Trachtman law firm, which serves as MEA’s general counsel. For more information, contact Michael G. Trachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org.