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Rest for the weary?

Taking a nap at work does not necessarily constitute grounds for dismissal. According to a recent judgment by the Cologne Labour Court (Arbeitsgericht, ArbG), the dismissal of an employee who took a nap which lasted several hours was disproportionate and thus invalid (judgment dated 19 November 2014, docket number 7 Ca 2114/14).

The plaintiff works as a stewardess for German Rail. Since she was not feeling well but had not called in sick, she sat down to rest during her shift on a train after prior consultation with her supervisor. She then fell asleep and, according to reports, remained asleep for the whole seven hour train ride. The employer subsequently terminated her employment, arguing that the employee had refused to work when she fell asleep. The employee challenged the dismissal in court.

The Cologne Labour Court found the dismissal invalid, holding that it was disproportionate. According to the court, the employer should have issued a warning letter first instead of dismissing the employee right away. Even though the employee had already received formal warnings in the past, eg for being late for work because she had overslept, the court found that these incidents did not correspond to the present case. The court did not decide whether the employee’s behaviour as such could be considered a breach of her contractual duty to work.

As the judgment is not yet final, it remains to be seen whether the employer will appeal this decision.