Late last month, Minnesota and Washington became the latest states to pass laws limiting the use of mandatory overtime for nurses.
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura signed legislation that limits the use of mandatory overtime when registered nurses consider themselves too tired to perform safe patient care. The Minnesota Mandatory Overtime Prevention Act (SF 2463/HF 2993) makes it illegal for health care employers in acute care settings to take action against a nurse for refusing to work overtime.
Minnesota was the first state in nation to include such language in union contracts for nurses, having implemented it in 1987. This state law covers nurses who do not have union representation and those who work in facilities where contract language does not address the issue. Long-term care facilities are exempt from this particular measure, because current administrative statute includes language about mandatory overtime.
Washington State Gov. Gary Locke has signed into law SB 6675, a bill that will protect nurses from dismissal and discipline when refusing overtime work. Washington is the fourth state to pass legislation on mandatory overtime.
"This is a huge victory for quality patient care. Forcing nurses to work overtime above their regularly scheduled shift is not safe for patient," said Louise Kaplan, PhD, ARNP, Washington State Nurses Association president.
Nurses in Minnesota, Washington and across the nation have been protesting the practice of forcing nurses to work overtime in order to compensate for short staffing. Nurses have reported more retaliation against nurses who refuse to work additional overtime hours. Retaliation includes discipline, threats of discharge, actual discharge of duty and reporting nurses to their licensing board for patient abandonment.