Question: Can allowing an employee to work extra hours expose employer to liability when that employee falls asleep while driving home from work?
Answer: A duty of reasonable care is not, of course, owed to the world at large, but arises out of the relationship between the parties. This inquiry focuses on whether or not the defendant … owes a duty to the particular plaintiff. An employee, not employer, is in the best position to prevent the injury to others. The employee controls their sleep schedule and the time of day they work, and the employee is able to take breaks from work if and when they became tired. Further, the employee is better than anyone else at knowing whether they feel fatigued. Moreover, although the cost of injuries caused by fatigued driving is surely great, there would be a greater cost that would follow with the imposition of a duty on an employer to monitor employees for fatigue. It is not clear how an employer could monitor employee fatigue, much less how an employer could determine whether such fatigue was job related or, for that matter, whether the fatigue is sufficient to intervene and attempt to prevent the employee from leaving the employer’s premises, even if the employer had the authority to do so. And such a duty would likely lead to ad hoc, industry-specific decisions by our courts that set bright line caps on the number of hours an employee is allowed to work, but this is a task best left to employers or to the legislature.