by state Rep. Dan Frankel
Under a law that took effect July 1, hospitals and other health-care facilities in Pennsylvania are now prohibited from forcing nurses and other health-care professionals from working overtime shifts as a routine staffing procedure. I voted in favor of this legislation, which was passed and signed into law last year.
Under the new law, nurses and other health-care workers who provide the bulk of patient care in Pittsburgh’s hospitals and other health-care facilities can still choose to work overtime, but cannot be forced to do so regularly. This new law is not just about improved working conditions for employees – it is also about patient safety, adequate staffing in Pennsylvania hospitals and the cost of health care for everyone. Health-care workers who are overworked are more likely to make mistakes, and they are also more likely to leave the profession.
A survey by the American Nurses Association showed that half of nurses reported working as much as 10 hours beyond their normal work week, and nearly one in five said they work between 60 hours and 80 hours almost every week. In many cases, these nurses were told they had to work overtime with little or no notice. Ending forced overtime for nurses will take the pressure off the health-care workers who have the most direct contact with patients, and may help to attract new nurses – and former nurses who have left – to the profession.
It is important for health-care workers to understand the new law, how it protects them, and what recourse they have if the law is not being followed.
The state Department of Labor and Industry will enforce the law through its Bureau of Labor Law Compliance. The department has added a section to its Web site that includes Act 102, a summary of the law's provisions, a complaint form for health-care workers to report violations and a list of frequently asked questions pertaining to the law. The Web site is at www.dli.state.pa.us; click on the "Act 102 - Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act" link.
Act 102 prohibits health-care facilities in Pennsylvania from requiring health-care workers to work in excess of their agreed-to, pre-determined and regularly scheduled work shift. The law also prohibits health-care facilities from retaliating in any way against nurses and other health-care workers who do not agree to work overtime.
Exceptions exist for declared emergencies or unpredictable, extraordinary events – such as terrorism, a natural disaster or widespread disease outbreak – which substantially affect the need for health-care services. Other exemptions include unexpected staff absences discovered at or before the start of a scheduled shift, or instances where workers must stay to complete a patient care procedure already underway.
I am very pleased that by instituting Act 102, Pennsylvania has joined 14 other states that prohibit or restrict mandatory overtime for hourly or non-supervisory health-care workers involved in direct patient care or clinical care services. This law will help protect both health-care workers and their patients.
As always, please contact my office at 412-422-1774 or visit my Web site at www.pahouse.com/Frankel for more information on any of these new laws, or for assistance or information on any other state-related matter.
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