Can a healthcare facility mandate that an employee stay for an extra shift without notice and threaten to fire the employee if they do not stay?

UPDATED: Aug 31, 2011

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Can a healthcare facility mandate that an employee stay for an extra shift without notice and threaten to fire the employee if they do not stay?

I work as a nursing assistant for a nursing facility in NJ. I was hired full time without benefits for the 3-11 shift. At least 2-3 times a week, the charge nurse tells another worker or myself we have to stay to work an extra shift to cover a call-out from 11 pm – 7 am with less than an hour notice. When we inform the nurse we are unable to do so, they tell us they are “mandating” us to stay, and if we leave we will be fired. I am constantly forced to miss classes the next morning, or cancel appointments because of this. Is what they are doing legal and what are my rights in this situation?

Asked on August 31, 2011 New Jersey


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I'm afraid that you may not have too many rights. That is unless you have a union agreement, employment contract, this action violates company policy, or your treatment constitutes some form of actionable discrimination. If you are an "at will" employee (and most of us are), your employer can hire/fire, promote/demote, increase /decrease salary /hours etc much as it deems fit - with or without notice. For your part, you can continue to work for your employer or not, your choice.

You should be aware however that some states do have restrictions on how many consecutive hours a nurse or doctor works. You should contact your state's department of labor or an employment law attorney to check if there is any relevant statute pertain to nursing assistants.

Note: If you are a non-exempt employee (i.e. hourly), you are to be paid overtime for any hours  over 40 that you work in a week.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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