Summary of Mandatory Overtime law

Questions and answers about the Rhode Island Mandatory Overtime law

Who is covered by the law?
The law covers all nurses and nurse’s aides who work in public or private hospitals, except those who receive an annual salary and those who are “on-call” in a surgical department. The law does not cover physicians or other health care workers.

When does the law take effect?
The law takes effect on March 4, 2008.

What are our protections under the new law?
No employee shall be required to accept a scheduled shift of more than 12 hours.

No employee shall be required to work in excess of their scheduled shift, except in an “unforeseeable emergent circumstance.”

No employee shall be disciplined in any way for refusing mandatory overtime, except in an “unforeseeable emergent circumstance.”

What is an “unforeseeable emergent circumstance”?
Unforeseeable emergent circumstance means an unpredictable occurrence relating to health care delivery that requires immediate action, and which shall include a major power outage, a public health emergency, an irregular increase in patient census, or an irregular increase in the number of employees not reporting for predetermined scheduled work shifts.

What happens if there are “unforeseeable emergent circumstances”?
Even in unforeseeable emergent circumstances:

* Employers must first exhaust “reasonable efforts” to obtain staffing by seeking volunteers from on-duty staff, off-duty staff who have made themselves available to work extra, and per diem staff, except in the case of a declared national, state or municipal emergency or disaster.

“Reasonable efforts” means that the employer shall: (a) seek persons who volunteer to work extra time from all available qualified staff who are working at the time of the unforeseeable emergent circumstance; (b) contact all qualified employees who have made themselves available to work extra time; and (c) seek the use of per diem staff.

* Mandatory overtime shall not be used to fill vacancies resulting from chronic short staffing.

* In no case shall an employee be required to work more than 12 consecutive hours.

How does the law affect our Union contract?
The law shall not negate any employee rights or benefits existing under collective bargaining agreements.

Does the law place any limits on voluntary overtime?
Nothing in the law limits voluntary overtime.

What happens if a hospital violates the law?
An employer who violates this law shall be subject to a fine of up to $300 for each violation, payable to the Center for Health Professions or the State of RI General Fund.

The RI Department of Labor & Training shall be responsible for enforcing this law.

To report violations of the Rhode Island mandatory overtime law, please complete a mandatory overtime documentation form and call the the United Nurses & Allied Professionals at 401-831-3647.

For a copy of the official RI Department of Labor Mandatory Overtime Complaint Form, click here.   The UNAP will be happy to assist you in completing this form.  Call us at 401-831-3647.