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July 11, 2003
Nurses Lobby to Keep Overtime
A coalition of ten nursing groups representing 400,000 nurses has asked the Labor Department to alter its proposed regulations and exclude nurses from the proposed rules for determining eligibility for overtime compensation, the Boston Globe reports.

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The groups want the Bush administration to reconsider its proposal to establish a $65,000 wage threshold as one criterion in determining eligibility for overtime compensation. The nurses worry that more hospitals would designate them as exempt from overtime pay under the proposed rules, according to the newspaper.

Currently, most hospitals pay the overtime premium to nurses who work excess hours, even though federal law does not require the hospitals do so, according to the nursing groups.

''Even though the Labor Department says we were never supposed to get overtime anyway, most nurses want the practice to continue,'' says Melinda Mercer Ray, a spokesperson for the Association of Women's Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. ''It is expected in our profession. But there is real fear out there that, if hospitals can find a way not to pay overtime in this tight fiscal environment, some might try to avoid it.''

The nursing groups contend a lack of overtime compensation would drive many people away from the profession, exacerbating the ongoing shortage of nurses in the nation.

Thus far, the Bush administration has received 70,000 comments on its proposal to overhaul regulations under the Fair Labor and Standards Act. The newspaper notes that the revised rules could come as early as the first quarter of next year.

''We will review the comments and make any changes that we think are appropriate,'' Tammy McCutchen, administrator of the Labor Department's wage and hour division, tells the newspaper. ''The fact that some groups are exempt under the current law is a legislative issue. The statute says bona fide professionals are exempt. What does that mean? We are trying to define that. For us, the key is how do you define the term, professional. That is what our regulation will be about.''

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