Q. We operate a home health care business. Our employees frequently are on duty for more than 24 hours. If employees are able to sleep during shifts that are 24 hours or more, do we have to pay them for those hours?
A. Employers and employees can agree to exclude up to eight hours of regularly scheduled sleeping periods from hours worked for shifts lasting 24 hours or more as long as adequate sleeping facilities are provided and the employee’s sleep is not generally interrupted.
If the sleeping period is interrupted to such an extent that the employee cannot get a reasonable night’s sleep, however, the entire period must be counted as working time.
It should also be noted that if an employee’s shift is less than 24 hours, the time he or she spends sleeping is still considered working time. It makes no difference if the employee is provided with adequate sleeping facilities.
There is disagreement between state and federal laws on what is an “adequate sleeping facility.” While the U.S. Department of Labor has said that a pullout sofa in a separate room is acceptable as long as there is enough privacy to ensure undisturbed sleep, Minnesota courts have stated that a separate bedroom area is required to satisfy the provision.