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Los Angeles Pays Out $26M For Not Letting Workers Nap on Meal Breaks

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on August 25, 2014 | In Workers Compensation News

Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation workers will be receiving $26 million from the city because they were not allowed to nap during meal breaks. Out of context, the subject of the agreed settlement sounds trite, but the lawsuit brought by the workers raised very serious issues concerning worker safety and fatigue.

The sanitation department has very strict rules on what the sanitation workers can and cannot do during meal breaks. Afraid of a publicity backlash if a business owner, resident or television news crew caught employees napping during meal breaks, the city had imposed a no-napping rule for the nearly 1,100 sanitation workers it employs.

Lawyers for the workers argued that the rules were too constricting. The attorneys also contended that the rules basically robbed the drivers of their meal breaks.

The city council approved the multi-million dollar settlement by a 9-2 vote. A spokesman for one of the councilmen who voted against the settlement told the Los Angeles Times that his boss, a former police officer, “never needed to sleep in his car. As a councilman, he never sleeps in his office.”

Research has shown that even a 20-minute nap during the day can improve worker’s alertness; and a more alert worker translates into a safer worker. While the perception that workers need to take naps at meal breaks because they have been out late partying the night before might be valid in some cases, it oversimplifies the complex reasons why employees may be missing sleep.

An employee may be staying up late to care for a child or elderly parent; he or she may be dealing with undiagnosed sleep apnea; or the worker may be kept awake by a medical condition or by aches and pains, for instance.

The settlement to the sanitation workers comes out to about $15,000 in lost wages per worker.

It is an employer’s responsibility to see that employees are working in a safe working environment. This is especially true in situations where the employees may be interacting with the public.

If you have questions about workers’ compensation or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, it is in your best interest to contact the Kenton Koszdin Law Office in Los Angeles. We are here to help you and your family. Call us toll-free at (800) 438-7734 or contact us online to schedule a free review of your case today.

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