PA health pros no longer face forced overtime

A new law going into effect July of next year will end a practice that has vexed Pennsylvania health professionals greatly. The law will prohibit healthcare facilities, under most circumstances, from demanding that nurses and certain other staff members work beyond the scheduled end of their shifts. The bill's supporters, including Gov. Ed Rendell, say that the law was designed to improve patient safety by making it less likely that overtired workers make dangerous mistakes.

In addition to forbidding forced overtime, the measure includes provisions intended to prevent health facilities from disciplining or otherwise discriminating against caregivers who won't work beyonds the end of their shift. It also bars employers from using on-call time as a substitute for required overtime.

If providers violate the new law, which will be enforced by the state's Department of Labor & Industry, they face fines of $100 to $1,000 per violation. Sure, those aren't staggering fines, but it's a lot more than health professionals had in place before. The mere threat of being cited by by the Department of Labor & Industry--and by extension, being seen as a bad employer--may have more of a deterrent effect.

To learn more about the new law:
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer article

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