I have worked at the same hospital for four years. Now we are being made to take call three days out of each six-week schedule. I didn’t sign a contract or agree to this when I was hired. Can I legally be made to take call, especially since it is considered overtime?
Nancy Brent replies:
Your letter does not include many details, however a response can generally be made based on what you wrote. Initially, since you did not sign a contract or discuss the issue of being on call when you were hired, your employer is free to add requirements to your position. Your employer also may have addressed additions to job positions in the employee handbook. Check on one of the first few pages of the book. There may be a disclaimer that states the handbook is not a contract, express or implied, and the employer is free to change conditions of employment as it sees fit.
There are exceptions to such changes, of course. Depending on your state laws and court decisions, sometimes the disclaimers do not protect the employer from making changes such as the one you describe. To determine if such exceptions exist in your state, a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state would be your best bet.
Remember, because the change will result in overtime, your pay will increase considerably because of the added hours at time-and-a-half. Of course, if you do not want to work extra hours, or cannot work extra hours, this added pay would not be attractive to you. If that is the case, and there is no legal prohibition to the employer’s requirements in your position, your only option appears to be to find another job.