Census workers caught sleeping on the job

September 28, 2011

Workers are sleeping on the job at the U.S. Census Bureau, and the agency is asking employees to stop napping in public areas of its Maryland headquarters.

A memo sent Tuesday said officials are fielding an increased number of complaints about colleagues “sleeping in public areas.”

“While at work, our behavior sends a powerful message to our customers, our colleagues and the taxpayers about who we are and what we value,” Ted A. Johnson, the bureau’s acting human resources director, said in the memo.

“Sleeping on the premises is not acceptable behavior,” Johnson wrote later. “It is manifestly unprofessional and creates an impression of carelessness, which unfairly impugns the hard work of the entire Census community. Moreover, such behavior can lead to safety problems in the event of an emergency.”

The memo urged ill employees to take leave if necessary, and to seek medical help if they are feeling tired or drowsy.

A Census spokesman confirmed Wednesday that “a handful” of census workers had been found in recent weeks napping in the lobby, library and cafeteria of the agency’s headquarters, located at the Suitland Federal Center in Maryland, a sprawling campus that also houses offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The headquarters includes a lengthy ground floor promenade lined with shops, a cafeteria, an auditorium and agency offices.

In recent weeks, union representatives and agency officials had received complaints from concerned colleagues about dozing workers, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. “The e-mail was sent as a reminder to all contractors and staffs of their professional obligations and to aspire to the highest standard of conduct,” it said in a statement.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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