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Health, Science & Tech

Audit Finds Health Care Worker Overtime Law Not Enforced

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced the results of a five month investigation into the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI)’s enforcement of Act 102, a 2008 law to limit excessive overtime work for health care professionals.

According to DePasquale, the department failed to implement the law quickly and effectively. He called Labor and Industry “negligent” for its failure to respond to health care workers’ complaints and develop regulations in a timely manner.

Act 102 prohibits health facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, from required hourly employees to work overtime, with some exceptions. Under the law, the Department of Labor and Industry had to set up regulations to enforce the law by April, 2010, which the department failed to do.

“Until the regulations were finally adopted in July of 2014, the law was like a car without an engine,” DePasquale said. “There were real consequences for not having these regulations.”

According to DePasquale, in one case, the department cited a facility for not complying with Act 102. The facility successfully fought the citation by saying “there were no regulations to comply with,” DePasquale said.

Auditors found that the Department of Labor and Industry failed to effectively track, investigate, and respond to Act 102 complaints. According to DePasquale, the department neglected to investigate eight percent of complaints filed during the audited time from July, 2009 through August, 2014.

DePasquale said auditors tested a sample of 47 complaints and found in that 87 percent of cases, auditors could not tell how long it took the department to respond to the complaints.

On one day in April 2014, the department closed more than 118 complaints at once. The audit revealed that Labor and Industry employees only investigated 19 percent of those complaints before closing them.

Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Kathy Manderino as Secretary of Labor and Industry in late March. Manderino said budget cuts and under-staffing prevented the department from effectively enforcing Act 102.

DePasquale said DLI employees cooperated with the investigation and were honest with the auditors about the situation.

“They said, point blank: ‘This law was not a priority,’” DePasquale said.

Manderino said that as a result of the audit she would launch a department-wide review. She also said the Governor’s Budget Office has authorized use of reserve funds to pay for the hiring of five new Labor and Industry Employees.

According to Manderino, Labor and Industry will also create a committee to explore other states’ laws and regulations, study trends in complaints that have been filed and meet with stakeholder groups. These stakeholders will include health care workers, hospital administrators, patient advocacy groups and labor unions.