How an Attorney Can Protect Nurses' Rights Regarding Mandatory Overtime Requirements
Requiring any employee to work mandatory overtime hours can cause difficulty for the worker and affect the quality of work. When registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are directly involved in patient care and work longer hours with less notice, something that has unfortunately become a common practice in health care provider offices around the country, the results can be serious, resulting in dangerous outcomes. An American Academy of Nurses study notes that if mandatory overtime requirements are allowed to continue, the following are more than likely to happen:
â€¢ An increase in drug administration errors and/or medication errors;
â€¢ A decrease in the rendering of safe and quality care to patients;
â€¢ A decrease in the satisfaction of patients and their families;
â€¢ An increase in the length of one's duration in a hospital;
â€¢ An increase in the number of deaths;
â€¢ A decrease in the ability to recruit new and/or additional nurses;
â€¢ A decrease in the ability to retain a team of experienced, qualified nurses; and
â€¢ An increase in the legal liability of nurses.
If you are a RN or LPN, and you think you have been required to work mandatory overtime, contact a trusted employment attorney for an evaluation of your possible claim.
The Law Governing Restrictions on Consecutive Hours of Work for Nurses
New York responded to this potential crisis in healthcare with The Restrictions on Consecutive Hours of Work for Nurses law. This law prohibits health care employers from mandating overtime for nurses â€“ for both RNs and LPNs. It also provides certain exceptions to the general prohibition. Understanding certain terms used in this law can help determine if it applies to you:
â€¢ Health care employer: this includes hospitals, outpatient medical clinics, nursing homes, residential health care facilities, residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, adult day care programs and diagnostic centers.
â€¢ Nurse: this includes RNs and LPNs, who work full-time, part-time, per-diem or on a contract basis providing direct patient care.
â€¢ Overtime: In the context of this law, overtime means any hours worked in excess of the scheduled hours the nurse has agreed to work, not whether the hours worked exceeded 40 hours per week.
â€¢ Nurse Coverage Plan: A plan that takes into account reasonable causes of nurse shortages and provides alternatives to mandatory overtime. This plan must document efforts made by the health care employer to avoid mandatory overtime and must be made available to all nursing staff.
Exceptions to the prohibition on mandatory overtime
This law does provide for certain exceptions to the general prohibition on mandatory overtime in the following circumstances:
â€¢ Patient Care Emergency: an unforeseen event that could not be prudently planned for which requires the nurse to remain for safe patient care.
â€¢ Health Care Disaster: An event, such as a flood, that affects the county in which the health care employer is located and creates a higher demand for nurses in that area.
How An Attorney Can Help RNs and LPNs with Mandatory Overtime Requirements
If you are a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, and you think you have been required to work illegal mandatory overtime hours, do not hesitate to speak with a legal professional as soon as possible. An experienced, knowledgeable employment law attorney will be able to review your situation and determine if your rights have been violated. Your lawyer will then be able to provide you with the guidance you need to make an informed decision on how to proceed with your potential case.