News & Events

MNA Victory for Patient Safety

A Law to Ban the Dangerous Practice of Mandatory Overtime
Goes Into Effect on November 5th

Go here for more current information

On August 6, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a health care payment reform bill that includes a ban on mandatory overtime proposed by the MNA/NNU.  The law will go into effect and all hospitals will be required to comply with the measure on November 5, 2012.  To assist nurses in understanding this new law and its implications, the MNA has created this web page to provide background on the issue, as well as a mechanism for nurses to report violations of the law. (Please note, there is a link at the bottom of this page to an online form to report violations)

This is a major victory for the MNA/NNU, all nurses in Massachusetts and most importantly, for our patients.  Click here to view the exact language of the new law.  Specific highlights include:

  • The law prohibits mandatory overtime, which is defined as “any hours worked by a nurse in a hospital setting to deliver patient care beyond the predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours that the hospital and nurse have agreed that the employee shall work, provided that in no case shall such predetermined and regularly scheduled number of hours exceed 12 hours in any given 24 hour period.”  
  • The law prohibits nurses from working mandatory overtime except in the case of “an emergency situation where the safety of  the patient requires its use and when there is no reasonable alternative”.
  • “Emergency situation” will be defined by a newly established health policy commission that will conduct a public hearing and consult nurses to determine what constitutes an emergency situation.  In the meantime, the MNA is taking the position that once a nurse’s shift ends, be it 8, 10 or 12 hours, she/he cannot be required to work mandatory overtime, with the only exception being for a county, state or nationally declared emergency.
  • The law also prohibits mandatory overtime being used as an alternative to providing appropriate staffing for the level of patient care required.  Therefore, the MNA contends that holes in the schedule, a high census, a sick call or leaves of absence by staff can in no way be construed as an emergency, as they are the direct result of the hospital’s failure to provide appropriate staff. 
  • The law requires that hospitals report all instances of mandatory overtime to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and that these reports be made available to the public.
  • The law protects nurses by prohibiting any discrimination, dismissal, discharge or any other employment decision based on a nurses’ refusal to accept work in excess of the limitations on mandatory overtime. 

This law affects all Massachusetts hospitals. We are dedicated to making sure this law works the way that the Legislature intended. If your hospital continues to use mandatory overtime after November 5, please let us know immediately.   In fact, you can follow the link below to report this violation via an our online Mandatory Overtime Reporting Form.   This form is being used by the MNA to report any instances where health care employers are mandating nurses to work overtime in violation of the recently passed law banning this practice.

Please fill out this form so that we can document these violations and report them to the various states agencies who will be charged with enforcing this law. 

Link to Mandatory Overtime Reporting Form

Click here to download a flyer about this issue to share with other nurses you know.

If you have other questions about this new law and how it will affect you, you can also email MNA/NNU Communications Director David Schildmeier at