Nurse overtime a hot button issue

LA nurse Nellie Larot made headlines this weekend when the LA Times reported that she earned $177,512 in overtime last year.  Larot, a prison nurse, earned more than the head of the entire state prison system.
Larot’s windfall has generated a lot of controversy, partly because her extra income was a direct result of the California state furlough plan, which was designed to save taxpayers’ money.  However, Larot and other nurses warn that the plan didn’t take into account the fact that healthcare facilities require 24/7 staffing.  If one employee is on furlough, another will be required to cover her position.

Elsewhere, nurses are suing employers for unpaid overtime, alleging that patient needs often require nurses to work through unpaid meal breaks.  Angela Valcho, formerly a NICU nurse at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dalls, recently lost such a lawsuit.

But Julie Kebler, a Seattle-based labor and employment lawyer, warns that the healthcare industry is ripe for such lawsuits, due to the nature of patient care.

What do you think?  Are nurses paid fairly?  Should nurses receive overtime for all hours worked beyond their regular schedule?

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