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How a California nurse made $270,000 last year

State law contributes to overtime pay

Topics: Nursing, Compensation, Labor Expense, Workforce

November 01, 2011

California's complex regulations around public workers' compensation, overtime, and furloughs led one nurse to triple her regular pay in 2010 and other state medical staff to report significant earnings as well, Bloomberg reports.

The nurse, who works at a men's prison near San Luis Obispo, earned $269,810 by working 2,450 extra hours last year, or the equivalent of 102 full days. Collectively, nurses that worked in California's prison system last year earned $54 million in overtime or an average of $13,600 per nurse. Nurses working in mental health hospitals received an additional $41 million in overtime.

Bloomberg notes that several other state employees also received significant pay boosts in 2010, including a prison physician who collected more than $590,000 in unused vacation time when he retired and a psychiatrist for the state who received an additional $97,700 in extra-duty pay.

According to Bloomberg, California's extra spending on public sector workers reflects a combination of staff cuts—which led to extra work that inflated overtime—and union-negotiated benefits and protections, such as "pay differentials" that require workers to take monthly furloughs. According to a spokesperson for the organization that runs California's prison health-care system, the overtime also reflects state licensure laws that require organizations to maintain minimum staffing levels around the clock (Marois, Bloomberg, 10/26).

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