GOP's 'Family Friendly' Bill Allows Comp Time Instead Of Overtime

gop overtime pay eric cantorBy Sam Hananel

WASHINGTON -- It seems like a simple proposition: give employees who work more than 40 hours a week the option of taking comp time or 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?"

More: A Boss Speaks: Why I Give All Employees Flextime

But the idea that Republicans promote as "pro-worker" is vigorously opposed by worker advocacy groups, labor unions and most Democrats. These opponents claim it's really a backdoor way for businesses to skimp on overtime pay. Judith Lichtman, senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women and Families, contends that 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 that she liked the idea of swapping overtime pay for comp time so that 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.

More: Paid Maternity Leave Now A Rare Benefit

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 a 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.

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.

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Just another case of Republicans wanting to screw the American worker as they always have.

May 15 2013 at 8:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

More time wasting antics, the House knows darn well that this will not go anywhere in the Senate. They can pretend that this is "family friendly", I wonder just how many Americans would agree.

May 15 2013 at 7:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My objection to this bill is that the employer CONTROLS when you can take the comp time off. The employee's request to take the comp time off can be denied by the employer. You may not be able to take your earned comp time for a year or better. Also if you leave before collecting all your comp time you lose it. I listened to the hearing on this legislation and what I just stated was in the hearing. It is a win-win for the employer and a lost to the employees. Your comp time is not paid at time-and-a-half like it would be in money. It's paid one to one. The Republicans, who represent big business, are helping out the corporations who are making the largest profits that have ever been made in history.

May 15 2013 at 5:33 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

As a former salaried employee, I received "COMP TIME" for any hours I worked OVER 40.. When I left that position, I had well over 200 hrs of COMP TIME that I never got to use. Management ALWAYS had an excuse when I asked for it. The most favorable excuse is that there is NO ONE to cover you, others are on vacation, etc. It sounds good, but it does seem the GOP is trying to make corporate leaders better off financially than the employee ? Money NOT paid is MORE interest to the company ! VERY BAD idea !

May 15 2013 at 5:23 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

When they get paid by the hour for the work they do then they can dictate who gets paid OT or not.

May 15 2013 at 1:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If the decision is ALWAYS left up to the employee then that's OK. But, we all know that it's all about the GOP making sure that BIG BUSINESS makes MORE MONEY. This is to avoid paying overtime for >40 hours/week of work.
How is it helping families to take away money?

May 15 2013 at 12:45 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

If the GOP want it then you know it will hurt the employee and make the companies money.

May 15 2013 at 12:36 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Get ready everyone. the GOP is BIG BIZ and this is the first step in business legally getting you to work more without paying you. Comp time? Families are working harder than ever and struggling more than ever and the the GOP thinks businesses should be allowed to stop PAYING WORKERS FOR THEIR WORK?

May 14 2013 at 10:55 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

The problem with emulating the public sector is the reality that many city and state governments are in or facing financial crisis and/or bankruptcy because of unrealistic employee benefit and retirement plans.

May 14 2013 at 9:26 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cshae89546's comment

I used to work for a state agency, we had an employee choice of OT pay vs comp time.
It could work out for relatively new employees who had little earned time off.
Of course, we had a union to back us up, it didn't really save the employer money as we were a 24/7 organization so OT had to be instituted to give the comp time. It was laughable, really.

May 15 2013 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If it's good enough for the goverment it's good enough for everyone. Personaly I get comp time instead of overtime. I hate it. But whatever they are the rules should be the same for everyone.

May 14 2013 at 9:14 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to trotinboot's comment

It should be up to the employee to decide. The problem is that we all know that the GOP will try to make it so businesses don't have to pay OT.

May 15 2013 at 12:46 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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