Cal­i­for­nia law clar­i­fies 12-hour work­day is­sue

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Adam Ruben­fire

A re­cently passed amend­ment to the Cal­i­for­nia La­bor Code pro­tects the 12-hour work­day fa­vored by many health­care work­ers and fa­cil­i­ties.

Leg­is­la­tion signed by Gov. Jerry Brown ear­lier this month af­firms a long­stand­ing rule drafted by the state’s In­dus­trial Wel­fare Com­mis­sion that al­lows health­care work­ers to vol­un­tar­ily waive their right to one of their two re­quired meal pe­ri­ods on shifts longer than eight hours. The bill was in­tro­duced af­ter unions and providers ex­pressed con­cern over a court rul­ing find­ing Cal­i­for­nia hos­pi­tals in vi­o­la­tion of state law when they al­lowed work­ers to waive meal pe­ri­ods dur­ing shifts that went even a minute over 12 hours.

Twelve-hour shifts are com­mon in both union­ized and non-union­ized health­care en­vi­ron­ments. It’s not un­com­mon for nurses and other staff to start their shift a cou­ple of min­utes early or end it a few min­utes late.

The Cal­i­for­nia Court of Ap­peals ruled in Fe­bru­ary that the Wel­fare Com­mis­sion rule, adopted more than 20 years ago, con­flicts with a sub­se­quent pro­vi­sion of the state’s La­bor Code that re­quires two meal pe­ri­ods for shifts that last over 12 hours. The rul­ing came in a case brought by three health­care work­ers against a Foun­tain Val­ley, Calif., hospi­tal.

The court’s rul­ing was retroac­tive, which meant that with­out the La­bor Code amend­ment, hos­pi­tals would have been at risk for mil­lions of dol­lars in liability re­lated to staff who were al­lowed to waive their meals over the past four years.

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