There's working hard, and then there's this: A nurse at a women's prison zapped the state of New York for some $630,000 in overtime in less than five years, according to the Journal News. Mercy Mathew, a 62-year-old RN who has since quit—presumably for a life of comfort—was the state's top OT earner in 2012 ($150,630 in overtime on an annual salary of $58,468) and 2009 ($171,814). Those numbers are attracting the attention of critics of government waste: "She must have been the bionic nurse in her time to be able to work that many hours without any rest," says one legislator. "The time of giving state agencies a blank check has to end."
Mathew's marathon schedule included working 90% of available days between Dec. 18, 2008, and Sept. 4, 2013; though she was normally slated to work 3pm to 11pm, she would often stay til 7:30am. She once logged more than six months without a day off. And her case isn't exactly unique: The Department of Corrections blew $87 million in overtime in 2008-2009—a hefty 20% of the overtime tally for the entire state. Others worry that employees working such grueling hours are a liability. "There's a potential if you're fatigued to make poor safety decisions or to miss some signals that would indicate you're in danger," says one expert. (Meanwhile, more workers are suing employers for "wage theft.")