Nurses' Overtime

Can nurses be required to work overtime?

Most nurses cannot be required to work overtime. This is to protect health-care workers and promote patient safety and quality health care.

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  • Expand/collapse What does the Nurses' Overtime law say?

    Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses(LPNs) who work on an hourly basis in acute care hospitals, hospices, and some limited long-term-care settings cannot be required to work overtime in excess of the established schedules or agreed-upon work week.

    Attempts to compel or force employees to work overtime are prohibited, except under unforseeable emergency circumstances such as a disaster or catastrophic event. Employees may choose to work overtime voluntarily, but refusal to work overtime is not grounds for discrimination, dismissal or discharge or any other penalty adverse to the employee.

    References to the law can be found at RCW 49.28.130 through RCW 49.28.150.

  • Expand/collapse What is the purpose of this law?

    The rationale for this law is to protect health-care workers and promote patient safety and quality health care. References to the law can be found at RCW 49.28.130 through RCW 49.28.150.

  • Expand/collapse Which health care facilities are covered by this law?
  • Hospices.
  • Acute-care hospitals.
  • Rural health care facilities.
  • Private psychiatric facilities (including some that may be operated by a local government).
  • Nursing homes or home health agencies operating under a licensed health care facility and which operate on a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week basis.
  • Facilities owned and operated by the department of corrections or by a governing unit as defined in RCW 70.48.020 in a correctional institution as defined in RCW 9.94.049 that provide health care services to inmates as defined in RCW 72.09.015.
  • State psychiatric hospitals.
  • Other state facilities operated by the Department of Social and Health Services.
  • Home health facilities that do not operate under the license of another health care facility.
  • Nursing homes that operate under their own license.


For more detail, see overtime fact sheet:
Acrobat PDF file Overtime Scheduling for Nurses (264 KB PDF)

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