DAYTON, Tenn. — Each day, Tim Nelson strolls into work, eases into a leather recliner and kicks up his feet.

It's not that Nelson is avoiding work — that is his work. He is one of 25 inspectors at La-Z-Boy Inc.'s Dayton factory, people who are paid to sit down, prop up their legs and rock back and forth all day.

Sound like a couch potato's dream job? Not so, say the inspectors, who are a bit touchy when it comes to their job description.

"It's not like they give us popcorn and a TV to watch," said Nelson, a 32-year-old who has worked at the factory for 10 years. "Up and down all day. Man, it can be a workout."

The inspectors may work for La-Z-Boy, they say, but they are anything but lazy. It turns out plopping down in recliner after recliner, day after day, is not as relaxing as it may seem. They are mostly men in their 30s and 40s, and are surprisingly fit and held in high regard at the plant — even if they are the butt of jokes outside it.

Jimmy Loden, 45, was promoted to inspector after spending 18 years on the assembly line. That was two years ago, and he still endures constant needling from friends and family.

"I've heard them all. They'll say, 'You have the easiest job in the plant.' Or, 'Jeez, I wish I could sit around all day,' " Loden said. "I don't even respond anymore."

La-Z-Boy, based in Monroe, Mich., is one of the world's largest producers of furniture. The company employs 21,000 people worldwide, with 2,400 of them working at the Dayton factory.

The Dayton inspectors test up to 130 recliners, sofa sectionals and love seats each day. About 10 to 15 of the furniture pieces are rejected — they're sent back to the assembly line with a list of shortcomings ranging from the wrong fabric to a faulty footrest.

The job is not for everyone. Each inspector must have a critical eye and the ability to focus while repeating a monotonous task for hours, said David McSpadden, 48.

McSpadden, whose pace is a notch above the others, breezes through the routine at the job he's been doing for 16 years.

First, he leans back into an oversized easy chair, inspecting for overall comfort. He must sink slightly into the chair, but not too far. Any chair too plush, or too firm, is sent back for restuffing.

He then rocks back and forth, making certain the chair is properly balanced and free of any hitch. Finally, he flips the footrest, arches his back and holds the position — as if he were snoozing away a Sunday afternoon — before hopping back to his feet.

A snip or two with a tiny pair of scissors to trim loose fabric, one last check to ensure nothing is missed and it's on to the next chair. One down, 129 to go.

"There really is more to it than sitting down and kicking back all day," McSpadden said. "People just don't have a clue."

Dennis Akin, who supervises the La-Z-Boy team of inspectors, says inspector vacancies fill up fast and that only the most meticulous workers are picked for the job. Training can take up to two months.

Inspectors also are among the best-paid employees at the factory, making up to $12 per hour.

"We've got a lot of responsibility. It takes a certain mindset to do this job and do it well," said Akin, who has spent more than a decade as an inspector.

And though they are on their rears as often as their feet, none of the inspectors say their job gets in the way of relaxing with their families.

"I've got one just like this at home," said Loden as he sat in a recliner. "I'm not going to watch TV standing up."