Extensive research indicates that there is a correlation between number of hours worked by health care practitioners and job function and errors. In response, the New York State Board for Nursing took the following position on voluntary overtime:
"Nurses, who voluntarily work beyond their normally scheduled hours in a situation that is not a declared emergency, must be able to demonstrate that they are competent to perform their professional responsibilities. Voluntarily working beyond 16 hours in a 24 hour time period will be considered by the New York State Board for Nursing as a factor in determining the willful disregard of patient safety by nurses and will be subject to a potential charge of unprofessional conduct."
Legal Restrictions on Mandatory Overtime
New York State Labor Law §167 makes it unlawful for certain health care employers (i.e., hospital, nursing home or medical facility) to require nurses who provide patient care to work beyond their regularly scheduled work hours, except in the following circumstances:
- a health care disaster;
- a government Declaration of Emergency
- an emergency that requires the nurse to work overtime to ensure safe patient care if the employer has implemented a "Nurse Coverage Plan" that did not alleviate the staffing shortage; and,
- during an ongoing medical or surgical procedure, and the nurse's presence is required to ensure safe patient care.
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for enforcing this law. More information concerning this law is available on DOL's web site.
Workplace Retaliation Protection for Health Care Workers
New York State Labor Law Section 741 protects health care employees from "retaliatory personnel action" by the employer in many instances where the employee objects to, or discloses to a supervisor or a public body an employer policy or practice that results in "improper quality of patient care" or an imminent threat to public safety.
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for enforcing this law. More information concerning this law is available on DOL's website.