published Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Dozing 911 dispatchers lose jobs

CHATSWORTH, Ga. — When two calls from a medic unit went unanswered at Murray County’s 911 dispatch office, a video showed the dispatcher with her bare feet propped on her desk, her eyes closed and her head tilted to one side, according to county records.

The incident was the latest in a series in the last three months that led to two 911 dispatchers no longer being employed in Murray after falling asleep while on duty multiple times. One was fired and the second resigned after being told she likely would be terminated, according to their employee files.

The Murray County dispatchers cover calls for fire, EMS and police in Chatsworth, Eton and Murray County.

Zerita Duncan, who had worked as a dispatcher since 2007, was given a written warning in February after video showed her apparently sleeping on the job four nights in a row, according to her file.

Duncan was placed on a three-day paid suspension on March 30 after video again showed her sleeping on March 26 and March 28. The video shows she dozed, her head nodding back and forth, throughout the night on March 28, according to her file.

She was fired on April 4 after officials had time to review the incidents, Murray County 911 Director Peggy Vick said. Duncan apologized when she was fired for letting the department down, according to her personnel file.

Ginger Parker, a 10-year employee, was cited for sleeping twice on the job. The first was on Feb. 9, when video showed her in a sleeping position. The second was on April 10, when she missed radio traffic and did not respond when her co-workers called her name around 4:30 a.m.

Parker was given a three-day suspension and told that officials would recommend she be terminated.

According to a letter in her file, Parker said she was being treated unfairly and threatened to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if she were fired. She then turned in an undated letter of resignation.

A written warning for the first offense and three-day suspension with possible termination is standard policy for the offense of sleeping on the job, Vick said Tuesday.

Dispatchers work 12-hour shifts with four people on a shift, she said.

“If they need a break and are not that busy, they can get someone else to cover while they take a break,” Vick said.

County Manager Tom Starnes, who makes the final decision on firing employees, said anyone who is fired can appeal to an appeals board. Duncan has not done so, he said, and county officials are not aware of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing from Parker.

Employees sleeping on the job have made national news recently, with five incidents of air traffic controllers sleeping while on duty surfacing since March, according to The Associated Press. Three were fired, records show.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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