Though not covered in the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandatory overtime is a chronic problem in many fields, particularly nursing and other related medical positions. The foundation for all minimum wage and overtime pay laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act is exceeded by some states which have enacted stricter wage and hour laws than the national ones. California and New York are the two states with the strictest guidelines including some for mandatory overtime.
- The FLSA defines overtime as any hours worked over 40 hours in a single workweek.
- The definitions, of non-exempt employees to whom the overtime laws pertain and of exempt employees who are not covered by this legislation, are clearly stated in the FairPay Overtime Rules.
- The difference between non-exempt and exempt employees is determined by their relative duties and authority, not by their job titles.
- Private sector companies with annual business volumes over $500,000 must follow the FLSA overtime laws, while those with less volume are exempt from the laws, though some employees may still be non-exempt.
- Forced overtime, required work hours of more than 40 in a single workweek, is NOT regulated by the FLSA overtime law. This means that employers can legally require employees to work an unlimited number of overtime hours.
- Some states have enacted legislation to limit forced overtime for specific professions.
- The states which have enacted mandatory overtime limitations include the following: AK, CA, CT, IL, MD, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX, WA, and WV.
There are many reasons that mandatory overtime should be regulated. Currently the fields most often regulated by state overtime laws are those in which error resulting from exhaustion could have dire life-threatening consequences for clients or patients. Mandatory overtime for nurses, which sometimes includes regularly scheduling double shifts, can have the following negative consequences for both nurses and their patients:
- Patient injury or death from fatigue-related medical errors
- Increased hospital stays due to poor quality care
- Shortage of licensed nurses
Lack of satisfaction on the job
- Professional: For not being able to provide their best care to patients
- Personal: Lack of personal and family time detrimental to the quality of their own lives
- Loss of license to practice due to increased errors related to fatigue
So, in addition to the morality of mandatory overtime which forces employees to work beyond their human limitations (which has been shown in a 2003 IOM report to sometimes result in harm to patients), there is also a monetary disincentive caused by the lengthier hospital stays of poorly managed patients.
Forced overtime became a concern as managed care programs proliferated as Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements declined.
If you live in one of the states which have enacted limits on mandatory overtime, and believe that your employer may be illegally requiring you to work mandatory overtime hours, contact an experienced overtime attorney from a reliable overtime law firm by completing our Case Evaluation Form online–it's free.