Background: Mandatory Overtime
Mandatory overtime is a difficult problem for RNs and health care facilities. Because of inadequate RN staffing, employers have used mandatory overtime to staff facilities often as a cost savings factor. Nurses are concerned about the health effects of long term overtime and the quality of care being provided.
As part of the American Nurses Association's (ANA) Nationwide State Legislative Agenda on the nurse staffing crisis, State Nurses Associations supported the enactment of mandatory overtime legislation in state legislatures and regulatory agencies. ANA also actively pushed for the passage of the federal mandatory overtime legislation, The Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act (HR 745/S 373) but it was not enacted this year.
In 2004, WV enacted legislation prohibiting a hospital from mandating a nurse to accept an assignment of overtime. The commissioner of labor is charged with the enforcement of the law and shall administer a penalty for any violations. CT enacted legislation prohibits a hospital from requiring a nurse to work in excess of a predetermined scheduled work shift except in certain circumstances such as participating in a surgical procedure until the procedure is completed, public health emergency etc. Legislation was also introduced in FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, MA, MI, MO, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, VT, and WA.
In 2003, three states, LA, NV and WV, enacted legislation requiring the establishment of study committees to further explore the issue. 22 other states introduced prohibition of mandatory overtime legislation/regulation designed to set maximum hours of work per day/week with protected right of refusal for work time requested in excess of predetermined maximums.
In 2002, the following states created laws to have an impact on this important issue: MD law states that an employer may not require a nurse to work more than the regularly scheduled hours according the predetermined work schedule. There are some exceptions including an emergency situation that could not be reasonably anticipated and if a nurse has critical skills and expertise that are required for the work. MN law prohibits action against a nurse who refuses mandatory overtime because it would jeopardize patient safety. NJ enacted legislation prevents a health care facility from requiring an employee to work in excess of an agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled daily work shift, not to exceed 40 hours per week. TX regulations require hospitals to develop policy and procedures for mandatory overtime. WA's new language states that acceptance of mandatory overtime by a nurse is strictly voluntary and refusal is not grounds for adverse actions against the nurse.
Legislation enacted in 2001 in ME would prevent a nurse from being disciplined for refusing to work more than 12 consecutive hours except in certain circumstances and must be given 10 consecutive hours off following overtime. OR enacted legislation prevents a nurse from being required to work more than 2 hours beyond a regularly scheduled shift or 16 hours in a 24 hour time period. Regulations adopted in CA prior to 2001 prevent an employee scheduled to work a 12 hour shift from working more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period except in a health care emergency.