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Changing hours/liability

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I am a Respiratory Therapist at aHospital in Connecticut...Due to lay-offs and people quitting, several night (11PM-7AM) shifts are open. My employer is FORCING me to do some night shifts, I generally work 7AM -3PM.

I have expressed my concerns to her that I will be unable to stay awake all night, and that when tired, I dont think straight and make stupid mistakes and I cant be responsible for any errors I make due to lack of sleep.

She told me I HAVE to be responsible for my actions and deal with it.

Is there any legal way I can get out of this? I will be the only one on this shift so theres no-one to call to bail me out when my mind goes to mush! Im really afraid I could lose my license if I should make an error.


CPR girl...



If you don't have an employment contract, in most states the employer can change your hours at will. You have the right to protest with your HR department. But, if they stick to their guns, you will have to work the hours or quit. I had a similar situation happen to me in the state of Ohio. The only way I avoided it was when hired I had specified the hours and days I was available for employment. My "at will" employment status changed to "employment contract" at that point because the company agreed to those terms. The problem was the company didn't know what they had done. After my attorney talked with them they understood completely... I would check with your state's Department of Labor just to see if you have a leg to stand on with the hospital. Hope that helps you.


You did the right thing by informing your supervisor/manager of your potential harm to patients as a result of the hours scheduled. It should be noted that in general, the employer can require an employee to work overtime, as long as they pay him or her in compliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. However, in your situation, there are likely state laws that override this situation in order to create and promote a safe enviornment for the hospital's patients.

So, your situation might be fairly re-stated as follows. Your employer orders you to work certain long hours. The hours are required due to the current staffing shortage of the employer. You promptly inform the employer that if you worked such hours that the patients would be placed at risk. The employer didn't care and ordered you to work those hours anyhow. Is there a problem here? Yes there is!

I would advise you to consult with an employment law attorney near you. He or she will be able to determine what state or federal laws are being violated by your employer's conduct. What he or she may suggest that you do is to inform your employer in writing of your refusal to work those hours since they create a dangerous work situation for the patients. Further, if there is an appropriate state or federal agency that would have jurisdiction over this medical situation, then a letter to them is necessary also.

Your employer would then be on notice of your refusal to violate the state or federal policy. So they can't take any disciplinary actions against you, nor can they terminate you. For more information on this public policy matter, please go to freeadvice.com/law/532us.htm.

For an attorney near you, go to attorneypages.com.

Mark B. Replogle

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