The passage of Massachusetts law restricting mandatory overtime for nurses gave me the occasion to look back and report on the Pennsylvania’s law.  Act 102 of 2008 is called the Prohibition on Excessive Overtime in Healthcare Act and went into effect on July 1, 2009.  These laws are designed to provide increased patient safety by preventing nurses from being forced to work mandatory overtime. Numerous studies have linked nurse fatigue and/or overwork to medical errors and/or patient deaths.  
 
At this time, with the addition of Massachusetts there are now 15 states with laws restricting mandatory overtime for nurses.  New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia are the neighboring states with such a law.  
  
Pennsylvania’s law does not go so far as to prohibit voluntarily exceeding eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week as some states have done.  Therefore, in Pennsylvania, a nurse may voluntarily work as many hours in a day or week as they like.  The law protects nurses from discrimination or retaliatory action for refusing to work overtime.  There are limited exceptions when a nurse may be required to work overtime but those essentially involve patient safety issues should the nurse not work the overtime.
 
The Department of State has a web page devoted to this law and reporting violations.   http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=614498&mode=2 The  Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP)  indicates on their website that they continue to monitor Pennsylvania’s law as well. http://www.pennanurses.org/pac/mot.html

If you have any questions about this, please contact me a jmcguire@c-wlaw.com.