Fired for Sleeping

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a supervisor and an abrupt firing:

I was accused of sleeping at my desk. I had laid my head on the desk for 5 minutes before my manager came behind me and kicked my chair, startling me. I had worked through my 1 hr lunch and had developed a horrible headache and nausea. I was also having sharp pains in my left ear. When I tried to explain to her that I was not asleep but that I was having a medical situation, she simply fired me.

I had set a reminder on my phone for 15 min just prior to laying my head down. The reminder was to take my medicine for my bladder condition. I only mention the reminder because from the time I set the 15 minute reminder to the time I was cleaning out my desk after being terminated, the alarm went off. Meaning that I was accused of sleeping, terminated and cleaning out my desk in less than 15 min. She humiliated me in front of coworkers, accused me of sleeping when I was in fact sick (my eardrum has ruptured) because of a coworker who later bragged about telling my boss I was asleep, causing her to come to my desk. I don’t believe it can be legal for her to do any of that. Signed–Fired For Sleeping

Dear Fired For Sleeping: 

Your unhappy situation raises serious questions. As you should have seen, we clearly have stated we are not attorneys. Our special expertise is workplace communication. Sometimes we get questions such as yours–that should not have happened. Our thoughts may enable you to think through what occurred and to determine next steps. But first of all, do tend to your health. Rest and get medical advice. Don’t allow this to sour you on life or even the superior who fired you. Anger and stress might be natural, but not a helpful response.

  1. Reflect on what led up to your chair being kicked. Review the weeks, months or years you have worked at that job. How has it been–something you enjoyed or felt you’d like to quit? Did you talk with your supervisor? When and about what? Had you good or poor reviews and why? Obviously thousands of questions and incidents will circle about in your head. Spell them out and then decide what probably caused this unhappy exit, but don’t complain to your family or friends. They might listen once but not more. 
  2. Choose not to be a victim. Your attitude now is a choice. Seek help: decide if you want to consult an attorney or two by phone to learn if she/he thinks you have a case and if it is worth it to them to take it on contingency. Perhaps the more immediate thing to do is to seek unemployment compensation and to job search.
  3. Use this time to gain skills on your own via the Internet or at a local university. Such an effort will constructively occupy your mind. 
  4. Appreciate the prompt response to your question by Human Resource Manager, Danica Rice. Danica is a wise woman with considerable job experience. Now she’s in a job she loves, and is gracious enough to assist with questions such as yours. After  reading what she says, you will see a parable that should help you smile and think positively. 

WOW!  This is horrible and I am so sorry to hear that this person has to experience this situation.  I am at a loss for words honestly.  I do not agree with how this situation was handled at all.  I believe that the employee should have had an opportunity to explain themselves before being terminated.  I am also curious about whether this was a first time offense or repeated.  If it was one time, then the employee definitely should have had a written or verbal warning at the very least.  If it was repeated then that would lead me to believe that the manager was aware of the employee’s medical issues; therefore, the employee shouldn’t have been terminated understanding that the employee had a reason for laying their head down.  Communication is always key but in this situation I understand the employee not being in position to make someone aware that they were not well.  It probably would have been better if the employee wasn’t at their desk but again when you are not feeling well going to another location may not always be feasible.  This is a horrible time to be unemployed but it could be a blessing in disguise, would the employee really want to work in an environment that lacks basic levels of understanding?  It’s definitely something to consider as the employee looks for another place to work.  I hope this helps. 

Now the parable: A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. The neighbors say, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Maybe.”

The horse comes back and brings several wild horses with him. The neighbors say, “Good news.” The Chinese farmer says, “Maybe.”

The farmer’s son tries to break one of the wild horses and is thrown and badly breaks his leg. The neighbors say, “Sorry for your bad news.” The farmer replies, “Maybe.”

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared. The neighbors say, “Happy about your good news.” The farmer replies, “Maybe.”

So Fired for Sleeping, I hope you are now smiling. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS and that is what I hope you will find in the near future. –William Gorden