New bill introduced to skirt overtime pay, allow comp time instead

Today, many people are familiar with overtime pay requirements in the workplace. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1937, a 40-hour work week was implemented and employers became mandated to pay workers classified as non-exempt 1.5 times the normal pay rate for every hour worked beyond 40.

However, employers someday may be able to provide compensatory time, or time off, to employees in exchange for overtime pay.

Specifics of the new bill

A new Congressional bill, entitled the Working Families Flexibility Act, was recently introduced in the House. Specifically, the bill would allow private sector employers the ability to offer 1.5 hours of time off (up to 160 hours) instead of 1.5 hours of overtime pay for qualified employees.

Employees would have the option to choose time off or overtime pay but would need to affirm the decision to their employers.

Additionally, the language of the bill would stipulate that the time off would need to be used within a 12-month work period and, if not, would be paid out to the employee.

Support for the bill

Proponents of the bill argue that the change would provide workers the opportunity to have a more flexible work arrangement. Bill sponsor and Republican Representative Martha Roby indicated that the bill would "make life a little easier for working Americans [to] balance the demands of work and family."

Support against the bill

However, opponents disagree and denounce that the law provides any flexibility for workers. Democrat Representative Joe Courtney argues that the "bill has nothing to do with promoting flexibility." He says, "To be clear, nothing in this bill requires that the worker has access to time off when she really needs it," he said.

Others argue that the bill is simply a way to allow employers to postpone paying an employee's rightfully earned wages. Aaron Albright, a spokesman for Education and Workforce Committee Democrats, says that, "At the end of the day, that overtime pay could come back to you as much as 13 months later, so basically you're giving your employer an interest-free loan."

The prospects of the new bill

It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for the proposed changes to the overtime law. It pay pass given that current federal, state and local government employees are authorized to receive time off instead of overtime pay due to the FLSA amendments in the 1980s.