DiNapoli report: State investigations into overtime complaints are lacking

David Lombardo

Albany Times Union

Apr 23, 2018

State regulators aren’t appropriately responding to complaints of excessive overtime from nurses in New York, according to an audit released by the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Monday.

Auditors in the comptroller’s office, who reviewed a 30-month period starting in 2015, determined the state Department of Labor (DOL) lacked effective policies and procedures for investigating complaints from nurses that they are being asked to work beyond the limit of consecutive hours outlined in state law. State regulations limit the consecutive hours nurses can work in non-emergency cases.

The comptroller’s office sampled 207 complaints and found the state didn’t contact complainants in 128 of those cases. In 33 of 165 complaints, the state deferred to the employer’s interpretation of events without any supporting documentation, according to a press release from DiNapoli’s office.

“Chronic overtime and longer shifts for nurses need to be watched closely by the state so patient care is not jeopardized, nurses are not overworked and employers are complying with the law,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The Department of Labor needs to do a better job investigating complaints from nurses about working overtime to keep patients safe.”

The state DOL told the comptroller’s office that the audit was conducted without an understanding of how investigations into overtime complaints are conducted. They also defended their outreach during investigations and argued the comptroller’s office failed to capture what their enforcement efforts consist of.

The comptroller’s office is recommending the state Department of Labor set up new policies for investigating complaints, improve its case management system and establish an outreach program for employers. The DOL noted in its response to the audit that it was already engaging in outreach campaigns with employers.