Do you work overtime? Here's what you need to know

Posted May 06, 2017

Most Republicans say a bill the House of Representatives passed on Tuesday would give private sector workers flexibility by letting them take compensatory time instead of overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. It now goes to the Senate.

The Working Families Flexibility Act is commonsense legislation that simply gives private sector employees the option to receive paid time off instead of cash for their overtime compensation - an option available to public sector employees for years.

Overtime rules don't apply to workers who are considered managers, defined as someone who regularly directs two or more full-time employees, earns a salary of more than $455 per week (or $23,660 per year) and has a say in hiring and firing. "Unfortunately, today's labor laws make it harder to offer this flexibility". The practice would only be allowable if the employee and employer entered into an agreement-before the performance of the overtime work-in which the employer has offered and the employee has chosen to receive "comp time" in lieu of overtime pay.

However, putting aside various nuances and state law differences, it has always been the case that the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") requires private sector employers to pay non-exempt employees time-and-a-half for all work performed beyond 40 hours in a workweek.

Within 30 days of an employee's request, the employer must cash out all accrued but unused "comp time".

House Republicans voted on Tuesday to change how workers are paid overtime in a measure critics say is a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

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As written, eligible employees would have to agree in writing to the "comp time" arrangement. "Comp time" generally is not permissible in the private sector. With only a slim Republican majority in the Senate and the reality that the bill may face some bipartisan opposition, the potential for defeat or a Democratic filibuster is significant. It would take money out of the hands of working people by setting up a false and risky choice between overtime pay now and time off later when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

Leading Democrats strongly oppose the bill.

The bill "would help American workers balance the competing demands of family and work by giving them flexibility to earn paid time off-time they can later use for any reason, including family commitments like attending school appointments and caring for a sick child", the White House said in a statement.

The measure "weakens protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act at the moment that we ought to be strengthening the law", said Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.).

The bill has been supported by the Trump administration, which put out a press release saying President Trump would likely sign it into law if the bill passes as now written.