Is Mandatory Overtime for Nurses Legal?
Yes… and sometimes no. Mandatory overtime for nurses has these professionals often working twelve to sixteen hours, sometimes with as little as one hour’s notice, on a regular basis, but it is not illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Sixteen states, however, currently regulate or restrict mandatory overtime for nurses including Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, California, and Missouri. Forced overtime for nurses has been a result in response to the overburdening of the hospital system by regulations requiring that all patients, paying and non-paying, be treated even as Federal Medicare and Medicaid payments decreased, as well as in response to the nursing shortage we are currently facing. It is perfectly clear that long hours, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation can cause even the most dedicated worker to make avoidable medical errors. In a report entitled “To Err Is Human”, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of errors in their medical care. Forcing nurses to work overtime is costly to patient care, length of recuperation, and to the quality of life for the nurses themselves. Mandatory overtime ironically contributes to the nursing shortage itself by increasing medical errors that cause too many nurses to lose their licenses. Additionally, overstressed, exhausted nurses who have no time for their families or outside interests often leave the profession where they find themselves unable to offer their patients quality care. If you are working mandatory overtime in one of the states which have mandatory overtime laws, contacting a reliable overtime lawyer who knows overtime law and how it relates to your particular job is a good starting place.