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The law regarding mandatory overtime in California

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in California may sometimes be required to work overtime so that patients can receive urgently needed care during staff shortages or some sort of emergency. Hospitals or other health care facilities will generally call for mandatory overtime only after more conventional efforts to ensure staffing levels are adequate have been unsuccessful, and some states have passed laws that would prevent them from requiring overtime be worked.

Federal law does not prevent employers from requiring their workers to work overtime when needed, and California's hour and wage laws also permit mandatory overtime. However, workers in California may refuse to work overtime without penalty if they have worked 72 hours or more during the previous week. Workers in the state must also be paid at least time and a half after completing 40 hours of work during a workweek.

A number of states have passed legislation that curtail or prohibit mandatory overtime, and employers may face severe sanctions for violating these laws. The courts in these states have also been sympathetic to workers who have faced disciplinary action or been terminated after refusing to work overtime. A health care worker in Pennsylvania was awarded damages of over $100,000 after filing a claim against her employer for firing her after she refused overtime an four occasions. The court also ordered her employer to rehire her.

Workers in California are protected by some of the nation's most progressive employee rights laws, but they may still sometimes face harassment or discrimination in the workplace. An attorney with employment law experience could explain the protections provided by federal and state labor laws as well as the severe sanctions that employers may face if they take retaliatory action against a worker who files a claim.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, Overtime, accessed on Dec. 1, 2015

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