Nurse Overtime

Overtime laws vary from state to state with regard to minimum threshold hours necessary to receive overtime pay. However, all states must, at a minimum, comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Federal overtime laws apply to all nurses employed in all capacities and in all areas of healthcare. Legislative efforts in some jurisdictions have resulted in overtime rights which are more expansive and provide a greater opportunity for overtime pay than the FLSA. Other states have opted to comply with the basic federal requirements.

Unions cannot force nurses to waive overtime rights. In general, overtime is calculated as one and one-half times the nurses typical pay rate. In specific situations, described below, overtime is calculated as double the nurse’s typical pay rate. Certain nursing positions are exempt from nursing overtime laws and typically include highly-skilled or management positions.

Overtime pay kicks in under a variety of situations. By expanding the requirements of the FLSA, some states require time and one-half overtime pay for any work performed in excess of eight hours in one day. Other states provide nurses who work longer than twelve hours in one day with double their usual pay rate. States choosing to adhere strictly to the FLSA only require payment of overtime for work in excess of 40 hours in one workweek (defined as seven consecutive days including weekends). The weekly provision is congruent with the FLSA and is important for nurses who may not work over eight hours in a given day but work in excess of 40 hours in one week. For example, a nurse who works seven hours per day for seven days straight would work 49 hours in a work week and would be eligible for overtime pay for the extra nine hours although the nurse never worked longer than eight hours in one given day. Some jurisdictions entitle nurses to overtime pay for working seven consecutive days and require payment of time and one-half throughout the duration of the seventh day.

The foregoing explanation may also apply to alternative workweek schedules. These are characteristic of the nursing profession and typically involve long 12-hour days for four days in a row with three days off.

Overtime issues that affect a large number of nurses may result in a nurses' overtime class action.

Mandatory overtime for nurses still requires that nurses be paid for the time they work overtime.

There are certain nursing positions that may not be eligible for nursing overtime protections. For instance, certified nurses that are highly skilled in a specific area may not eligible for overtime if they spend more than half their work time on tasks that they would otherwise be unable to perform absent the higher certification. The same exemption might apply to managing nurses who spend more than half their time on supervisory tasks as opposed to caring for patients or performing traditional nursing functions.

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