Give Private Sector Workers An Option That Federal Workers Already Have

Businesswoman Holding a Baby --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Two days ago, the House passed the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017,” that would allow employers to offer, and employees to receive, 1.5 hours comp time in lieu of overtime pay for any overtime hours worked.  It now must pass the Senate.  This a policy that the NCPA has long supported in modernizing the American workplace.  The media and people like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are already going after the bill as an affront to workers’ rights (seriously, Senator Warren is having an epic meltdown over this).  I will have to assume that none of them has read the bill because the statements being made about “gutting worker protections” just don’t fit with the text of the bill.

There are plenty of caveats that would protect workers while allowing employers to provide an option that many workers would gladly take.  Contrary to what opponents believe, yes, some workers would rather take additional time off for working overtime than taking the money. The point here is flexibility.  Each person is different and values time and money in different ways.  So for something that promotes flexibility to meet the needs of workers and responds to the modern workforce, it is puzzling that “pro-worker” politicians oppose it.  Some provisions of the bill include:

  • An employer may provide comp time but is not required to do so.  They may opt to continue with the current overtime rules.  If any employer does provide comp time, however, they must also provide overtime pay for those who request it.
  • If the employer offers comp time, it must be agreed upon by the employee and employer without coercion.  Employees must have worked for the employer for one year or 1,000 hours before a comp time agreement can be established.
  • Employees are limited to accruing 160 hours of comp time.  At the beginning of each year, the employer must provide payment for any unused comp time hours accrued from the previous year.

Several decades ago when I worked at a hotel, which was open 24-7 of course, and thus provided plenty of opportunities for overtime pay, I sometimes wished I had the option of just taking some time off to preserve my sanity instead of taking an overtime check.  For those who choose the money instead, this bill does nothing to “gut” overtime protections.  In fact, employees are free to change their minds on comp time and request overtime pay instead.

An important reminder for those politicians who are becoming unhinged over private sector workers receiving comp time in lieu of overtime pay:  According to the Office of Personnel Management, which governs the affairs of federal employees, this same type of policy has been in place for federal workers for decades.  So why do people like Senator Warren shrug at federal employees receiving this benefit but oppose private sector employees receiving the same?



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