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Health Care Workers Cannot Be Fired For Refusing Overtime

Pennsylvania health care workers cannot be discharged for declining to work mandatory overtime and if they are they may sue their employer for wrongful discharge according to a just released decision by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

In Roman v. McGuire Memorial, 2015 Pa. Super. 232 (Nov. 9, 2015), the Superior Court ruled that dismissing health care workers who cannot or will not work overtime and are then disciplined may bring a public policy wrongful discharge tort claim, and can be awarded both damages and an order of reinstatement.

Brandy Roman, who was represented by Samuel J. Cordes & Associates, a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania labor and employment law firm, worked as a direct care worker. She declined to work overtime when ordered to do so because she had no one to care for her children. McGuire Memorial fired her. Following a one day trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, she was awarded damages of more than $120,000 and the Court ordered McGuire Memorial to reinstate her.

McGuire appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision in a November 9, 2015 unanimous opinion. The Superior Court found that the Pennsylvania legislature expressed a clear mandate of public policy when it adopted

the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act, Act 102, 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. ยงยง931.1-932.6. Discharing a woman because she could not accept overtime violated the public policy embodied in that Act, the Court held.

"This case will offer protection for the most vulnerable workers who bear the brunt of health care employer's staffing policies designed not to improve patient care, but to maximize the bottom line," said Samuel Cordes, one of Ms. Roman's lawyers. "Health care facilities' budgets should not be balanced on the backs of women who need to leave work on time to care for their children."

The Superior Court held that health care facilities may not use mandatory overtime to cover for their decision to not hire sufficient staff to provide necessary patient care.

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