PA bans mandatory nurse overtime

Until recently, nurses in Pennsylvania could be required to work "mandatory overtime," a practice that added additional hours to long shifts and--nurses argued--endangered patient care by forcing tired workers to stay on their feet. For about 10 years, nurses have battled this practice, fighting for a state law to limit hospitals' ability to force nurses and support staffers to work forced overtime.

Now, Pennsylvania has joined 14 other states in enacting a law that sets limits on required overtime. Under the new law, hospitals and other facilities can be subject to fines or other penalties if they retaliate against employees who won't work overtime hours. Not only should the bill address safety issues, it should also help hospitals retain nurses, who have consistently reported that unpredictable overtime hours are pushing them out of the field entirely, union leaders say.

Unions have pushed hard for this measure, but the new law may have an even bigger effect on non-union staffers. In many cases, unions have already negotiated limits on mandatory overtime requests, but support staffers like nursing home workers, radiology aides and surgical techs haven't had such protections, nor have non-union nurses.

What will hospitals do now that forced overtime is largely off the table? It's expected they'll need to hire more nurses and support staffers, as well as doing more with in-house pools, observers say.

To learn more about this measure:
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer piece

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