The Cost of Mandatory Overtime: Too High?
Several states have undertaken to correct what many feel is a serious omission in the national Fair Labor Standards Act—a total lack of legal limitations on mandatory overtime, particularly in professions which can inadvertently cause harm to others when fatigued such as nurses or truck drivers.
Unlimited forced overtime can have dire life or death consequences either for the patients of nurses who sleeping on their feet at the end of a grueling schedule double shift, or truck drivers and other drivers traveling roads late at night in an effort to keep to their schedule.
The Fair Labor Act (FLSA) has provided the groundwork legislation for all American employees since it was first enacted in 1938, but to this day, it still does not restrict overtime in any way. For this reason, several states led by New York and California have enacted state overtime laws to correct this problem. Other states that have enacted some form of overtime laws addressing this issue include: AK, CT, IL, MD, MN, MO, NH, NJ, OR, PA, RI, TX, WA, and WV.
As an example of the deleterious results of forcing employees to work overtime for hours up to and including double shifts, the following negative consequences for both nurses and their patients:
- Medical errors because of excessive tiredness that can cause patient injury or death;
- Longer patient hospital stays due to injury or conditions resulting from poor care
- Licensed nurses shortage due to:
- Dissatisfaction with their jobs due to the long hours
- Which do not allow them to provide patients with the best care possible
- Long hours which have a detrimental effect on their quality of life and that of their families;
- Loss of nurses due to errors resulting in forfeiture of licenses.
Excessive forced overtime can harm nurses and their patients resulting in longer hospital stays which raise medical costs even more even though care itself is poorer. The total cost to individuals and the nation itself is incalculable.