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GOP seeks alternative to overtime pay

Posted by on May. 8, 2013 at 11:10 PM
  • 5 Replies

WASHINGTON (AP) — It seems like a simple proposition: give employees who work more than 40 hours a week the option of taking paid time off instead of overtime pay.

The choice already exists in the public sector. Federal and state workers can save earned time off and use it weeks or even months later to attend a parent-teacher conference, care for an elderly parent or deal with home repairs.

Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would extend that option to the private sector. They say that would bring more flexibility to the workplace and help workers better balance family and career.

The push is part of a broader Republican agenda undertaken by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to expand the party's political appeal to working families. The House is expected to vote on the measure this week, but the Democratic-controlled Senate isn't likely to take it up.

"For some people, time is more valuable than the cash that would be accrued in overtime," said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., the bill's chief sponsor. "Why should public-sector employees be given a benefit and the private sector be left out?"

But the idea Republicans promote as "pro-worker" is vigorously opposed by worker advocacy groups, labor unions and most Democrats, who claim it's really a backdoor way for businesses to skimp on overtime pay.

The White House on Monday issued a veto threat, saying the bill undermines the right to overtime pay and doesn't offer enough protection for workers who may not want to receive compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.

"This is nothing more than an effort to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse," said Judith Lichtman, senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women and Families. She contends the measure would open the door for employers to pressure workers into taking compensatory time off instead of overtime pay.

The program was created in the public sector in 1985 to save federal, state and local governments money, not to give workers greater flexibility, Lichtman said. Many workers in federal and state government are unionized or have civil service protections that give them more leverage in dealing with supervisors, she added. Those safeguards don't always exist in the private sector, where only about 6.6 percent of employees are union members.

Phil Jones, 29, an emergency medical technician in Santa Clara, Calif., said he's wary of how the measure would be enforced.

"Any time there's a law that will keep extra money in an employer's bank account, they will try to push employees to make that choice," said Jones, who regularly earns overtime pay. "I know how we get taken advantage of and I think this bill will just let employers take even more advantage of us."

But at a hearing on the bill last month, Karen DeLoach, a bookkeeper at a Montgomery, Ala., accounting firm, said she liked the idea of swapping overtime pay for comp time so she could travel with her church on its annual mission trip to Nicaragua.

"I would greatly appreciate the option at work to choose between being compensated in dollars or days," she said.

The GOP plan is an effort to change the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which requires covered employees to receive time-and-a-half pay for every hour over 40 within a work week. The proposal would allow workers to bank up to 160 hours, or four weeks, of comp time per year that could be used to take time off for any reason.

The bill would let an employee decide to cash out comp time at any time, and forbids employers from coercing workers to take comp time instead of cash.

Republicans and business groups have tried to pass the plan in some form since the 1990s. Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, insists it's not about reducing wage costs.

"It's an alternative to the mandated paid leave approaches that Democrats typically support," Freedman said. "We believe it's more appropriate to give employers the choice on whether they want to do this."

Democrats say the bill provides no guarantee that workers would be able to take the time off when they want. The bill gives employers discretion over whether to grant a specific request to use comp time. Opponents also complain that banking leave time essentially gives employers an interest free loan from workers.

Lichtman said workers would rather get paid sick days, paid family leave, more unpaid family leave and an increase in the minimum wage.

But Alabama congresswoman Roby argues that, in the long run, those ideas would do workers more harm than good.

"The cost of government-mandated benefits is going to be passed off to American workers," she said, resulting in fewer jobs.

by on May. 8, 2013 at 11:10 PM
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by Silver Member on May. 8, 2013 at 11:22 PM
1 mom liked this
We debated this last week (?)
As an HR manager at a global company, I can tell you 100% that there are MANY people who would rather take "comp" days that they can "bank" and use for extra paid days off - for children's sicknesses, school programs, etc. the time is an equivalent. The employers do not skimp, if this is the choice of the employee. If an employee would rather take the overtime pay - FINE. This is an option that is being proposed - not getting rid of overtime. I would be behind it completely because I see parents struggle with taking days off without pay all the time. SMH.
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by on May. 8, 2013 at 11:37 PM

Yeah, I believe that this was already posted in here but none-the-less I don't think that this is right.... too much of a slippery slope IMO.

by Ruby Member on May. 9, 2013 at 12:39 AM

 Once again:

"As predicted in our recent post about comp time Heads-Up Employers: Is comp time the wave of the future? legislation that would allow private sector employers to offer their employees compensatory time off in lieu of overtime was reintroduced in the House of Representatives last week.  On April 9, 2013, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1406) that, if passed, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to permit private-sector employees to opt for paid time off (“comp time”) at a rate of at least one-and-one-half hours of compensatory time per hour of overtime pay earned.


Comp time has long been available in the public sector: Instead of being paid in cash for the overtime hours, a public sector employee is allowed to accumulate and take time off in the future with pay on the basis of 1½ hours of paid time off for each actual hour of overtime worked.  To date, this type of comp time option has not been extended to private sector employers.  Indeed, private sector comp time is unlawful except in certain limited situations."


by Ruby Member on May. 9, 2013 at 12:44 AM

 And once again:

Please read the bill HR 1406.  The link is in my post above.  It takes about 2 minutes to read.

Some highlights from the bill:

(1) Taking comp time in lieu of over time is the employee's option, not the employer's.

(2)  You just have to let your employer know that you want to bank the over time as comp time before the specific hours are worked.  In other words, if you are going to be working two extra hours this afternoon, you just have to inform your employer that you want it banked for comp time to be used in the future.  Then you have to give your employer notice ahead of time, when you want to take Friday afternoon, next week, or this week or whatever.

(3)  You can bank up to 160 hours in a year.  However, any hours over 80, the employer has the option to pay you at the dollar rate when it was accrued.

(4)  If you quit, again the employer has to pay you for whatever comp time you have accrued at the rate it would have been if you were paid ot at the time it was accrued instead.  In other words, if you had 50 hrs overtime = 150 hours of comp time....your employer would have to pay you at the rate you would have receieved when you worked the 50 hours of ot.

(5)  Comp time is accrued at 1 1/2 hrs for each 1 hour ot worked.

(6)  Also, should you chose to then not take the banked time, your employer would have to pay you the ot rate.


by Gold Member on May. 9, 2013 at 11:06 AM

 As long as the employee has the choice whether to take the compensation in cash or comp time, and as long as the employee is actually allowed to take the time off that they request (rather than being told, "Sorry.  We can't allow you to have time off right now.  Things are too busy."), then I think this could be a good thing.

My Dad retired from the DOD about 8 years ago.  He'd accumulated so much comp time over the years that the last three years that he worked, he was able to take every Monday and Friday off.  That was pretty cool.

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