Is “Mandatory Overtime” Legal for Nurses?
In many states across the country, employers can force nurses to work long and excessive hours, which sometimes leads to complications, errors, and a less-than-safe work environment. As expected, overworked nurses lower the quality of care at hospitals as their physical and mental health deteriorate. As a result, many states have enacted laws that regulate overtime for nurses. However, only 18 states currently have meaningful restrictions on mandatory overtime for nurses.
Mandatory overtime is considered any work beyond a “regularly scheduled shift,” which is one in which the nurse and the healthcare employer agree. Although nurses are protected to some degree in 18 states from being forced by their employer to complete overtime, this situation is not the case in most states.
Which States Don’t Require Mandatory Overtime?
When nurses are forced to work beyond the hours of their agreed contract, that time is known as mandatory overtime. A nurse can’t opt out of mandatory overtime. While some nurses may not mind working longer hours, it can be an unwelcome intrusion that eats into their free time and inhibits their work-life balance. As a result, many have pushed for overtime to be voluntary only.
So far, eighteen states have passed legislation or instituted regulations on mandatory overtime in the nursing industry:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Employers can’t compel or force nurses to deliver services beyond their standard scheduled shift in these states. The laws vary state-by-state but generally give nurses the right to refuse overtime without fear of retaliation, provide a maximum shift (such as 14 consecutive hours, for instance), and provide exceptions (such as emergencies). Covered employees included Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses who are:
- Covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement or paid hourly wages
- Employed by health care facilities and those who offer direct patient care services
- Surgical technologists
- Certified nursing assistants
- Cardiovascular invasive specialists
- Diagnostic radiologic technologists
- Respiratory care practitioners
Several exceptions may require nurses in these states to work overtime, including when a nurse needs to complete a patient care process that’s already in progress, when there’s an unexpected emergent circumstance, or when there’s pre-scheduled on-call time.
Understanding Mandatory Overtime Pay for Nurses
No matter the case, overtime becomes illegal if your employer fails to pay you at least the required overtime premium for the extra time. The Fair Labor Standard Overtime Laws (FLSA) state that overtime pay may be necessary when a nurse works longer than 40 hours over the course of a workweek. Some states have also enacted overtime laws for the number of hours an employee can work within 24 hours before receiving overtime pay.
It’s also important to note that not all nurses have the right to overtime pay under the FLSA, and some may be “exempt” from this mandatory law because they are considered “learned professionals.” For instance, registered nurses paid a salary of at least $684 per week who are registered with a state examining board are typically exempt for overtime pay under the learned professional exemption.
Under federal overtime labor laws, all non-exempt employees must receive time and one-half the regular rate of pay after 40 work hours in a 7-day workweek. However, some healthcare workers employed by hospitals, nursing homes, or other residential facilities may use the “8 and 80” system to determine overtime pay allotment.
The Lore Law Firm Stands Up for Nurses’ Rights
If you have any additional questions about mandatory overtime laws in your state, contact the knowledgeable legal professionals at the Lore Law Firm. Our team thoroughly understands nurse’s rights and has experience protecting medical professionals. Because this kind of law is complex, it tends to require the help of a skilled attorney. Fortunately, help is only a click away at the Lore Law Firm.
Our team has the expertise to guide you through intricate nursing labor laws so that you can attain the overtime pay you deserve from your employer. You can reach us by calling (866) 559-0400 or completing our contact form for a free consultation.