Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession(5)6 June 97


   Quick Summary: A hospital has the right to prohibit employees from sleeping during breaks and from taking breaks in unauthorized places.

   A no-sleeping rule protects patients. A hospital must at all times be able to contact all staff on duty in the event of an emergency.

   A hospital also has the right to present a professional image to its patrons, by limiting where employees can take their breaks. DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, 1997.



   A nursing technician from the hospital’s head injury rehab unit was caught sleeping during her break in a rocking chair behind a door in the pediatric department, and was fired.

   The District Court of Appeal of Florida ruled the firing was justified on grounds of employee misconduct.

   This hospital strictly prohibited employees from sleeping during their work breaks and from taking breaks in that particular section of the pediatric department. The nursing technician was aware of the hospital’s strict policy.

   According to the court, the reason for the no-sleeping rule is to protect patients by allowing the hospital to know where everyone is and to be able to mobilize all of its on-duty employees in the event of an emergency.

   A hospital also has the right to regulate where employees may and may not take their breaks, in order for the hospital to be able to present a professional image to hospital patrons.

   In general, any employer has the right to terminate an employee for deliberate disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of its employees. In this specific case, according to the court, the hospital’s no-sleeping rule and prohibition against taking breaks in the pediatric unit were legitimate standards the hospital had the right to set for its employees.

   The court went on to say that violation of these standards for employee conduct were legitimate grounds for the hospital to fire one of its employees. Jennings vs. Unemployment Appeals Commission, 689 So. 2d 1193 (Fla. App., 1997).