NY Prosecuting Health Care Workers Who Sleep on the Job

Katarina Siegfeld | April 1st, 2015

nursing home patientAt the Sanders Firm, we support all steps taken to protect vulnerable patients in nursing home and long term care settings. We were especially glad to hear of steps that New York State is taking to crack down on abuse involving health care workers who deliberately sleep on the job, thus putting their patients at risk.

According to statistics beginning in the year 2013, there were more than 450 cases of NY nursing home neglect or abuse involving health care workers being paid to sleep while on duty. In an effort to prevent such instances, the state has issued guidelines to facilities, health care employees, and families regarding the problem. However, New York State has also begun to actively prosecute workers who endanger their patients in this manner.

Nurse prosecuted for sleeping on the job

In one case, a nurse was prosecuted for failing to check on a disabled man who ran low on oxygen and later died. Tanya Lemon, 35, was employed as a nurse for 12-hour night shifts at a group home in suburban Syracuse. Prosecutors say that she regularly slept during this period, as she cared for her four children during the day.

Lemon was supposed to check on her patient every two hours to make sure that his oxygen mask was working properly and his airway was clear. Instead, he was left unattended for eight hours. Oxygen deprivation led to brain damage and, 14 days later, to his death. Lemon pled guilty to felony endangerment of a disabled person. She lost her license, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation.

According to Barbara Parsons, another nurse who worked with Lemon at the Briarwood Lane home in DeWitt, NY, this was a fairly common practice, well-known to other employees, and Lemon was by no means the only offender. The special prosecutor in the Lemon case, Patricia Gunning, noted that simply becoming sleepy and nodding off was different from deliberately or habitually using time on the job to catch up on sleep which, she says, “is something that rises to criminal conduct.”

Problem may be widespread in nursing homes

While several states do not track the number of incidences of medical workers sleeping on the job, Ohio (along with New York) has found repeated examples of the problem: the Department of Developmental Disabilities in Ohio found 88 cases in which health workers regularly slept on the job. The cases in Ohio did not result in arrests, because no harm came to the patients in their care.

However, in New York, officials cited cases in which one patient had an unattended seizure, a patient with a tendency to choke was left to eat alone, other patients took unauthorized medications that were not locked away, and one patient ran away, all while caregivers who were supposed to be attending to them slept.

Legal advocates you can count on

If your family member has suffered injury or death because he or she was left unattended by a sleeping employee, it is important that such health care workers be held accountable in a court of law. Likewise, care facilities that do not take responsibility for monitoring employee’s behavior and cracking down on such negligence need to be held accountable as well.

At The Sanders Firm, we make sure that the rights of victims and their families are fully represented in situations such as these. Please call any time at  1-800-324-7752 to set up a free consultation regarding a NY nursing home neglect lawsuit with one of our attorneys.


  1. Star Tribute, New York cracking down on health care workers who deliberately sleep while on the job http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/297615111.html

  2. US News, New York cracking down on health care workers who deliberately sleep while on the job http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2015/03/26/paid-to-sleep-ny-cracks-down-on-napping-health-workers