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Limit to Hours Worked in Emergency Conditions

Hi! I am a manager in the healthcare industry (clinical, but not nursing, very small hospital) and we experienced a significant blizzard over the weekend in Pennsylvania. My staff member was stuck there on shift due to other employees not being able to make it in. She worked a 24 hour shift and now there are people up in arms about this. She was prepared for this to happen and agreed she would stay. Is there a limit on hours worked for healthcare personnel in PA, and are there any exceptions when there is a state of emergency in effect? The therapist that was there felt she would be abandoning if she had chosen to leave. It is a difficult situation. Thanks for any insight you can give.

Though there is no federal law that imposes restrictions on the number of hours healthcare staff can work, there is a comparable regulation in Pennsylvania, specifically Act 102.

Straight from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry:

Act 102 prohibits a health care facility from requiring employees to work more than agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled work shifts. Employees covered under Act 102 are individuals involved in direct patient care or clinical care services who receive an hourly wage or who are classified as nonsupervisory employees for collective bargaining purposes.

Act 102 will not prevent an employee from working more than an 8-hour shift if the shift is agreed to and regularly scheduled. It does not prohibit overtime for on-call time, if certain unforeseeable emergent circumstances occur or if an employee must complete a patient care procedure already in progress at the end of regularly-scheduled shift and the employee’s absence could have an adverse effect on the patient. Act 102 does not prevent an employer from providing employees more protection from mandatory overtime than the minimum established under this act.

Employees may also agree to work any overtime. However, an employer may not retaliate against an employee who refuses to work overtime. An employee required to work more than 12 consecutive hours under the Act 102’s exceptions or who volunteer to work more than 12 consecutive hours may receive 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time immediately following the worked overtime. An employee may waive this off-duty time, however.

Now, it’s understandable why people would be concerned over an employee working 24 hours straight. Doing so places the employee at risk for exhaustion which can impair her judgment; thus, placing her patients at risk. But, in the face of an emergency with no other option, you and the employee made an educated decision which was perfectly legal in PA.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2016 at 2:25 pm and is filed under
Labor Laws.
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