A bill that will allow employers to offer private-sector employees the choice of paid time off in lieu of cash wages for overtime hours worked, allowing them greater choice and increased time flexibility in the workplace, passed out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday.
Sponsored by Alabama 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act, would give private sector employees the option to convert their accrued overtime into paid time off. This compensatory time, or “comp time,” would be completely voluntary for the employer and employee with strong worker protections to prohibit coercion. Comp time is already widely used by government employees.
“As a working mom, I understand all too well the challenges that working parents face in juggling a career and managing a family,” Roby said. “Whether it’s coaching a child’s tee ball team or caring for an aging parent, family responsibilities often require time away from work. Congress can’t legislative another hour into the day, but we can give working parents more choices over how they use their time.”
Roby’s bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which regulates workforce practices. In 1985, Congress amended the FLSA to allow the use of comp time in government agencies, but the practice remains prohibited in the private sector.
“Outdated federal rules that demand rigid work schedules are making it more difficult for workers to find the flexibility they need. That’s why we need the Working Families Flexibility Act,” said Committee Chairwoman Virigina Foxx. “By providing private-sector employees the choice of paid time off for overtime hours worked, we can empower more hardworking Americans to do what’s best for themselves and their families. All we are doing is giving workers an option, and it’s the same option public-sector workers have received for decades.”
Roby’s proposal includes reforms to:
- Allow employers to offer employees a choice between cash wages and accruing comp time for overtime hours worked. No employee can be forced to take comp time.
- Protect employees by requiring the employer and the employee to complete a written agreement to use comp time, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee.
- Retain all existing employee protections in current law, including the 40-hour workweek and how overtime compensation is accrued.
- Allow employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay cash wages for any unused time at the end of the year. Workers are free to ‘cash out’ their accrued comp time whenever they choose to do so.
- Prohibit employers from intimidating, coercing, or forcing employees to accept comp time instead of cash wages. Those in violation of the law would be liable to the employees for double damages.
- Require the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the extent private-sector employers and employees are using comp time, as well as the number of complaints filed with and enforcement actions taken by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Roby said she introduced this bill because she believes all workers should have access to this flexibility benefit.
“The Working Families Flexibility Act would finally offer Americans working in the private sector what their peers in the public sector already enjoy: more freedom and more control over their time so they can spend it the way they choose,” Roby added.