Hospital officials back off overtime vote

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    Hospital officials back off overtime vote

    Filed: 11/24/99
    By MICHELLE TERWILLEGER
    Californian staff writer

    Catholic Healthcare West Central California has backed away from a plan
    to ask its 12-hour employees if they would rather make less per hour or
    work 8-hour shifts.
    Groups of employees at CHW hospitals including Mercy and Mercy
    Southwest received word this month that they would be asked to vote on
    the proposals as CHW officials figured out how they would comply with a
    new state law regarding overtime.
    But hospital management changed course this week, informing employees
    that the vote scheduled for next week was canceled.
    "We found out that that wasn't acceptable to a lot of our employees,"
    said Della Hodson, spokesperson for CHW Central California.
    The new law, the Eight-Hour-Day Restoration and Workplace Flexibility
    Act, makes it mandatory in most situations for employers to pay
    time-and-a-half to employees working more than eight hours in one day.
    The law goes into effect Jan. 1.
    Currently, employees can agree to work longer shifts without being paid
    overtime if they work no more than 40 hours per week.
    CHW Central California managers said they couldn't afford to pay their
    12-hour employees time-and-a-half because it would cost $5.5 million to
    $7 million annually.
    However, there is a provision in the law that allows employers in
    healthcare, skiing, commercial fishing, pharmacy, sales and horse racing
    to continue to pay their 12-hour employees straight time until July 1.
    By that date, the state's Industrial Welfare Commission will decide if
    exemptions to the law should be made for those industries.
    Hodson said that CHW has heard indications from attorneys and healthcare
    advocates that exemptions will likely be approved. That would mean CHW
    could schedule 12-hour shifts without paying overtime.
    "We believe the chances of that look better than they did a couple weeks
    ago," Hodson said. "It's still not 100 percent certain. We feel that the
    chances are better."
    Officials at other Bakersfield hospitals affected by the new law said
    they are still considering how they will implement it.

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