Nurses accuse Lahey Health of violating Massachusetts mandatory overtime law

Nurses at Lahey Health's Beverly (Mass.) Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Mass., are taking action to address what they deem are "unsafe patient care conditions" at their facilities.

The nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, claim they are forced to work mandatory overtime in direct violation of a 2012 state law that prohibits the practice.

However, Lahey Health denies the allegations, saying that the safety and well-being of their patients and colleagues is the No. 1 priority of Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital.

According to the MNA, Lahey Health has allegedly violated a law that prohibits mandatory overtime, which is defined as "any hours worked by a nurse in a hospital setting to deliver patient care beyond the predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours that the hospital and nurse have agreed that the employee shall work, provided that in no case shall such predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours exceed 12 hours in any given 24 hour period." Exceptions can be made in the case of "an emergency situation where the safety of the patient requires its use and when there is no reasonable alternative." Additionally, the law prohibits mandatory overtime from being used as an alternative to providing appropriate staffing for the level of patient care required, the union said. 

The mandatory overtime issue came to a head when MNA nurses at both facilities recently completed an internal audit revealing that in three and a half months (Jan. 25, 2015 through May 2, 2015) RNs had filed 54 forms documenting allegedly illegal use of mandatory overtime, according to the union.

The MNA filed a class action grievance with hospital management over this issue on May 8. That grievance has been rejected by hospital management.

"Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals take their legal obligations seriously and it is the hospitals' position that they are in compliance with the mandatory overtime law," Lahey Health spokesman Dan Marra said in a prepared statement. "We remain committed to and value our partnership with our MNA colleagues and will continue to collaborate with them on staffing and other concerns raised."

Now, the nurses and MNA plan to submit the issue to arbitration in the hopes of "changing management's behavior and improving patient safety," the union said.

If the hospital fails to stop the alleged mandatory overtime practice, the MNA said they will be meeting with the Health Policy Commission, which developed the regulations underpinning the 2012 state law, and the Department of Public Health, which oversees the implementation and compliance with the law, to ensure Lahey Health complies with the law and protects its patient population. 

 

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