The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jobless after sleeping on the job
- Studies support power nap, but that is of no help to sacked employee

New Delhi, Jan. 19: Uttam Manohar Nakate's lawyer may not be too familiar with the concept of power nap. Had he been aware of the benefits of an afternoon snooze during work, Nakate might have got his job back.

On the contrary, the Supreme Court today upheld his dismissal by his employer, Bharat Forge, the Pune- based company, where he used to work as a helper.

Exactly at 11.40 am, Nakate was found fast asleep on an iron plate at his workplace on August 26, 1983. The choice of timing does not exactly match that recommended by power nap experts who prefer the post-lunch siesta to add zing to the brain, if not to the step as well. But it is possible, Nakate may have had lunch before he bedded down.

According to his employer, his records show a history of having more than just lunch. An in-house inquiry suggested that he had been found in a drunken state often and there was a 'serious charge of misconduct'.

These findings may have added to the weight of the argument against him, but the real charge against Nakate is sleeping on the job that some of us are accustomed to. And it's a very good thing, too, as many studies, not the least one done by researchers in Harvard, have found.

In the Harvard study, it was clearly shown that volunteers who were allowed a mid-day nap performed better after it than those who did not have one.

All these studies will be of no help to Nakate now.

The Supreme Court said: 'If the punishment (sacking) is harsh, albeit a lesser punishment may be imposed, but such an order (of reinstatement by the labour court) cannot be passed on an irrational or extraneous factor and certainly not on a compassionate ground.'

Although trade union leader M.K. Pandhe said he did not know the details, he argued that circumstances in which he was found sleeping would be important. 'For instance, the employee could have been dozing because he was not well, had a stomach pain or chest pain,' the Citu leader added.

'I know many officers who sleep on their job.'

But they have private offices, don't they'

After Nakate was found sleeping, disciplinary proceedings were started against him under the Industrial Employment Act. He was found guilty and dismissed on January 17, 1984. The internal inquiry took note of the fact that Nakate was earlier found guilty of sleeping on the job thrice and awarded minor punishments.

Complaining of unfair trade practice, the employee went to the Maharashtra labour court, which directed reinstatement with 50 per cent back wages.

On an appeal, the industrial tribunal set aside the labour court order and upheld the dismissal. But Bombay High Court reversed it and directed payment of Rs 2.5 lakh to the worker and reinstatement.

Bharat Forge went to the Supreme Court, which endorsed the management decision. 'In the facts and circumstances of the case and having regard to the past conduct of Nakate as also his conduct during domestic inquiry, we cannot say that the quantum of punishment imposed upon him was wholly disproportionate to his act of misconduct,' it said.

Ashok Rao, leader of the Confederation of Public Sector Undertakings, took up where Pandhe left off. 'Even (H.D.) Deve Gowda used to sleep at meetings. Did we sack him as Prime Minister' Second, was he a habitual dozer or did it happen just once' Did his sleeping cause any loss to the company'

Quite the contrary. Sleeping on the job is actually good for the company, if, however, done in moderation ' say, half-an-hour a day. It sharpens the mind and can even boost productivity. That has been proven scientifically.

Next time the boss catches you having forty winks, wink and invite: 'Why don't you have a power nap, too'

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