NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2009
As the state law banning mandatory overtime for RNs and LPNs went into effect on July 1, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) posted information about the law on its website, including a complaint form to report violations of the law.
The law prohibits healthcare employers from mandating overtime for nurses, and stipulates the conditions under which exceptions to this rule may be made. The DOL is responsible for enforcing this law.
Now available at www.labor.state.ny.us are the text of the law, frequently asked questions, and emergency regulations (which are still under review). From the DOL home page, click on the announcement dated June 30, 2009 to get to the page related to mandatory overtime.
The website provides an official complaint form; the law provides that employees cannot be disciplined for complaining to the DOL. If you belong to a NYSNA local bargaining unit, provide a copy of the complaint to your nursing representative.
Tina Gerardi, NYSNA chief executive officer, has sent a letter to each of the facilities where the association represents nurses. In the letter, she reminds them that although employers are allowed to mandate nurses in emergency situations, the DOL has stated that these situations do not include regular or routine sick calls, vacations, breaks during shifts, holidays, and bereavement leave and leaves of absence.
Even in an emergency, employers also must make a good-faith effort to obtain voluntary coverage by calling per diems, agency nurses, or off-duty nurses; assigning floats; and requesting voluntary overtime from on-duty nurses.
“The New York State Nurses Association has been and will continue to work closely with the DOL to ensure that all reported violations are investigated thoroughly,” Gerardi wrote. “While it is my hope that you will adhere strictly to the tenets of the mandatory overtime law, please be advised that a violation is a misdemeanor and is punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both.”