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Nurses in New York and required overtime

Nurses may be required to work overtime in many parts of the country when hospitals or other medical facilities are understaffed due to an emergency situation or employees taking vacations or calling in sick, but New York is one of the states that has passed a law protecting nurses from mandatory overtime. New York lawmakers passed Restrictions on Consecutive Hours of Work for Nurses in 2009 and authorized the state's Department of Labor to enforce the regulations.

While overtime usually refers to any work performed after 40 hours have been worked during a workweek, the New York law dealing with mandatory overtime for nurses considers any hours worked in excess of a nurse's regular predetermined schedule to be overtime. The law covers both registered and licensed practical nurses who work either full-time or part-time.

New York allows employers to require nurses to work overtime only as a last resort during an unforeseen health care emergency. In all other situations, employers are expected to ensure adequate staffing levels are maintained through prudent planning. Employers must also be able to provide documentation, such as phone logs, to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to secure nursing coverage before requiring that overtime be worked.

Nurses who have faced retaliation such as disciplinary action or termination for refusing to work overtime may seek civil remedies in states like New York that have these protections in place, and an attorney with experience in this area could file a claim on their behalf. An attorney with employment law experience could also explain the protections against workplace discrimination and harassment that workers in New York enjoy and the remedies available to them when these laws are violated.

Source: New York State Department of Labor, Nurse Mandatory Overtime: Frequently Asked Questions, accessed on Dec. 1, 2015

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