NY Health Care Workers Who Sleep on the Job Face Prosecution

Beginning in 2013, there have been more than 450 cases of health care workers routinely sleeping on the job in New York State. These employees, essentially paid to “sleep on the job,” endanger the patients for whose care they are responsible. At Edelman, Krasin & Jaye, our attorneys are encouraged to hear that steps are being taken to confront these examples of neglect in our nursing homes and other health care facilities. As such occurrences continue to come to light, we want to be on the side of those who aggressively crack down on instances of Long Island nursing home neglect.

The state has taken several steps to curtail the problem of sleeping on the job, which appears to be endemic in our state. For instance, they have written guidelines to be distributed among health care facilities, health care employees, and families of patients in order to set standards and promote awareness of the problem. But prosecutors associated with the state have also begun to actively hold employees who routinely sleep on the job accountable if their neglect results in injury to their patients. For instance, a nurse whose sleeping habit led to the death of her patient was charged and convicted for her neglect.

Nurse in Upstate New York loses license, gets jail time

Tanya Lemon, 35, worked 12-hour night shifts at a group home near Syracuse, NY. One of her most important duties was to check on a severely disabled patient every two hours to ensure that his airway was clear and his oxygen mask was functioning. One night, however, Lemon left the man unattended for eight hours while she slept, which was a routine practice for her. At one point during this period, the man’s access to oxygen was obstructed and he suffered brain damage. Fourteen days led, he died as a result. Lemon was found guilty of felony endangerment of a disabled person. She lost her license and received five years of probation and 90 days in jail.

According to fellow employees at the Briarwood Lane home in DeWitt, NY, where Lemon worked, routinely sleeping on the job was by no means a problem limited to one employee. Nurse Barbara Parsons has noted that it was a fairly common and well-known practice. However, in Lemon’s case it led to the death of a patient and the prosecution of the health care worker whose lapse led to the death.

Many states do not keep careful records of workers caught sleeping on the job. However, those that do have found that it is a serious problem. For instance, in addition to New York, Ohio’s Department of Developmental Disabilities has located 88 cases of which health workers routinely sleeping while they should be watching patients.

It is important to distinguish between workers who have nodded off during isolated incidents and workers who actually “schedule” their sleep time for working hours. As Patricia Gunning, special prosecutor in the Lemon case notes, routine sleeping on the job “is something that rises to criminal conduct.”

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Long Island

No workers should engage in such practices. Unfortunately, however, cases can only be brought against employees (or facilities who do not properly supervise them) if routine on-the-job sleeping leads to the harm of a patient. While no one wants such serious injury to result, it is important for victims and their families to know that legal action is possible.

Please contact Long Island medical malpractice lawyers at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye if you believe that your family member’s death or injury was the result of neglect in which an employee was sleeping on the job. We are available for a free, no-obligation consultation about a potential case. Call our offices toll-free at 1-800-469-7429.