Thank you for the information and your question. First, I am not exactly sure who you spoke to, but the NYS DOL is charged under the nurse mandatory overtime statute to enforce the law. In other words, there is no requirement that you file suit, the law provides that the DOL enforces it and there is a complaint process through the State. You can see the form for doing so at the following link: https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workers_rights/Mandatory_OT_home.shtm
Also, the information you apparently received about when an employer can mandate overtime wasn't exactly accurate. The employer is not limited to just a natural disaster and ultimately they decide when there is a
"patient care emergency." Obviously, they can't be unreasonable in doing so and if they are, a nurse could file a complaint, but they have a pretty broad right to do so. You can see the exact details of under what circumstances they can declare the patient care emergency by going to the FAQ at the follow link and going down to that information: https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workers_rights/Mandatory_OT_FAQ.shtm#1
I have set out what the requirement is for the "patient care emergency" from that link here:
Q: What is considered a “patient care emergency”?
A: A "patient care emergency" means a situation that:
Before requiring an on-duty nurse to work beyond his or her regularly scheduled work hours to address a patient care emergency, the health care employer must:
The health care employer must document attempts to secure nurse coverage:
An employer cannot deem a situation a patient care emergency if it is the result of routine nurse staffing needs due to:
Typical staffing patterns
Typical levels of staff absenteeism
Time off typically approved by the employer for vacation, holidays, sick leave, and personal leave
This applies unless the employer followed an acceptable Nurse Coverage Plan but failed to produce staffing to meet the particular patient care emergency.
If you still though, after reading all the detailed FAQ that your employer is violating the law, then you have a right to file the complaint I mentioned. There really is no cause of action, other than an injunction, that a civil suit would accomplish, since the statute gives no such rights. In other words, there is no basis for damages with a violation of the statute, only option is to stop them from violating it in the future, which the DOL can do through their process.
Please feel free to ask for clarification after you have read the information at the links above. If none is needed, then if you could take a moment to leave a positive rating in the box above, I will receive credit for assisting you today. Thank you