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June 23, 2009

Law Prohibiting Mandatory Overtime by New York Nurses
to Take Effect July 1, 2009

On August 15, 2008, New York Governor David A. Paterson signed into law legislation that bans hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities from mandating additional hours of work for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses beyond their regularly scheduled work hours. (Please see our August 19, 2008 Client Alert). The law will take effect on July 1, 2009. Therefore, health care employers should begin planning immediately to ensure that they comply with the law.

The law bans health care facilities from requiring nurses to work more than their “regularly scheduled work hours.” The law fails to specify how many hours per day or per week a health care employer may schedule a nurse to work. The law permits nurses to voluntarily work hours in addition to the regular schedule, as well as to volunteer for overtime shifts.

The ban on mandatory additional hours does not apply in certain situations. For example, the ban does not apply when a nurse is engaged in an ongoing medical or surgical procedure and/or when no alternative staffing is available to provide safe patient care in “emergency” situations. However, in “emergency” situations, employers must make a “good faith” effort to have overtime covered on a voluntary basis. The ban also does not apply when a natural or other type of disaster increases the need for nursing services or when a state of emergency has been declared by federal, state, or local authority.

The New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”) is in the process of developing regulations to enforce the law. The DOL has not indicated when the regulations will be published. Such regulations will hopefully clarify unanswered questions, such as enforcement mechanisms, available remedies, and the definition of “emergency” situations.

If you should have any questions regarding the new law, please contact us.