Napping is popular among just about everyone other than toddlers, who desperately need them but are convinced they are prohibited by the Geneva convention. Culturally, though, we just don't do it. We get up in the morning, we go to work, and we work until dinner time, when we go home, eat, watch Netflix, and go to bed, where we are supposed to sleep all night and wake up refreshed!

Oh yeah, and do the laundry, clean the bathroom, help the kids with their homework, visit our mothers-in-law, and walk the dog. So some of us might be a bit tired around, say, 1:30 in the afternoon. And some of your employees might want to take a nap. Are you legally required to let them sleep?

Of course not! You set the schedule and they can take it or leave it! Unless you have 15 or more employees and your sleepy employee has a medical reason for the nap. For instance, if your employee suffers from Narcolepsy. This is a condition that can be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). People with ADA covered disabilities are entitled to "reasonable accommodations." And a nap can be a reasonable accommodation for narcolepsy or other sleep disorders.

What can that look like in your business? Well, it depends on what reasonable is for your business, but here are some suggestions.

  • Allow a lunch break at the time when your employee says he is the sleepiest. This may mean he "goes to lunch" at 2:00, taking a nap in a conference room, and eats at his desk.
  • Combine short breaks into a longer break so your employee can get some rest. (This also would depend on state break laws, which vary wildly.)
  • Change starting time to help someone who is more awake outside business hours.

If you have an employee who you've seen fall asleep at her desk, don't just assume she was out late and is irresponsible. Ask her what is going on and suggest she see her doctor. An employee cannot just claim a disability and receive an accommodation without her doctor filling out the paperwork. You can, of course, just allow the person to take a nap anyway, as it's possible to be completely healthy and responsible and still prefer to sleep a bit in the afternoon.

So the short answer is, yes, sometimes the law says you have to let an employee take a nap. Sometimes, though, you can fire. Check with your attorney.