Lawmakers move to protect nurses from mandatory overtime

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address fatigue and burnout among healthcare professionals. 

This is even more crucial given staffing shortages. According to the nurse.com 2022 "Nurse Salary Research Report," 29 percent of nurses are considering leaving the profession.

Amid these concerns, several states have considered strengthening or enacting legislation related to mandatory overtime for nurses.

Here are initiatives unfolding in four states: 

New York

New York's mandatory overtime law for nurses, which was suspended during the pandemic under the broad COVID-19 emergency, allows an enforcement waiver during a declared emergency and does not have a set time limit on the waiver, according to the state Senate website.

Lawmakers now are considering legislation that would limit the length of time an employer is able to mandate nurses to work overtime during emergency situations. Specifically, it would "limit the time of the suspension of mandatory overtime for nurses for a natural disaster or declared emergency" and prevent a hospital from declaring an emergency for routine nurse staffing needs, according to the state Senate website. 

The bill is in the finance committee in the state Senate. Meanwhile, another bill making its way through the state Legislature would create a fine of $1,000 to $3,000 for employers that require a nurse to work overtime outside of limited emergency situations.

Michigan

In Michigan, a proposal was made in March 2021 limiting mandatory overtime for nurses, but it has not passed.

Through Senate Bill 205 and House Bill 4483, nurses would not be allowed to work overtime. Nurses could volunteer to work overtime as long as they are capable of providing safe care. They would be required to have eight hours of continuous time off after a shift lasting 12 hours or longer. If a nurse refuses unplanned overtime shifts, they could not be disciplined, fired or lose their license.

These limits would not apply to emergencies or when a nurse is in a critical patient procedure.

Ohio

Ohio state Sens. Nicki Antonio and Tim Schaffer introduced in March 2021 legislation that prohibits mandatory overtime. A hospital would not be able to fire or discipline a nurse for declining to work mandatory overtime. 

However, these limits would not apply if a nurse volunteers or if the hospital is in an emergency.

Hawaii

Hawaii introduced legislation in January in the Senate that would ban forcing or coercing a nurse to work overtime. A nurse would not be able to work more than 48 hours a week or more than 16 hours in a 24-hour work period. Retaliation against a nurse for not agreeing to overtime would also be barred.

This legislation would not apply to emergencies, scheduling issues from unforeseen weather issues or the first two hours of overtime when the provider is searching for another person to take over. 

 

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