Political Update: Comp Time Bill Proposed in the U.S. Senate

As many of you know I teach the PHR certification classes that are offered at two local universities. One of the modules that is covered is one on compensation. We cover the Fair Labor Standards Act in class, of which two components cover the minimum wage and the subject of compensatory time (comp time).These two components have become a political football with the introduction in the U.S. Senate of a bill dealing with comp time.
Comp time as overtime

Many workers would prefer time off for family to overtime pay if they had a choice.
Many workers would prefer time off for family to overtime pay if they had a choice.

The bill titled The Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act (S. 1626) would amend the FLSA and let employers offer comp time to employees at a rate of 1.5 hours for every hour of overtime work. I have had many employers use this idea (incorrectly under current regulations) because they find that employees like having time off when they have been working long hours and they idea that they would get it at 1.5 hours of time off for every hour worked would be particularly appealing. If an employee wanted cash instead of the time off they can choose that option.
Under the current FLSA comp time in the private sector is illegal. The FLSA specifically requires that overtime must be paid in CASH as compensation at the rate of 1.5 hours for every one hour worked. It has been that way since 1938 and Congress has been loathe to change it, generally because unions are adamantly against it.
But as the nature of the workforce has changed and work-life balance has become more important many more people would prefer to take the time off rather than get the money. So I find clients who are disappointed that they cannot offer that to employees and they are somewhat chagrined that they have been doing something not allowed.
So this bill has been introduced by the Senate Republicans in order to afford businesses the opportunity to offer comp time to nonexempt employees. Of course it has been done with some ulterior motives as well. It will help position the Republicans as being family friendly, but more importantly it is being done to dull the impact of a bill that will be introduced by the Democrats.
Minimum wage
The recent protests by union backed fast food workers in NYC to, raise the minimum wage, has added impetus to the introduction of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. The bill proposes to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over a three year phase in period. I think if any legislation has a chance of getting through our dysfunctional congress it will be this one but the changes of this passing are only listed at 2%.
Offsetting bills on real problems
So both of these bills are designed to offset each other and serve no other purpose than to politically position both parties in the eyes of the voters. This is unfortunate, because both bills would solve situations in need of alteration.
Being able to offer comp time as an alternative way to compensate for long hours would be welcomed by many. It does not take away the opportunity to make more money if that is what the employee wants.
Raising the minimum wage is passed due. $7.25 an hour just does not cut it in today’s world. Yes I realize that there would be costs associated with this, but in reality we all want to hire better employees and would be willing to pay them more anyway. One of the aspects of having a better employee is having someone who wants to be at work and most people don’t want to be at work for $7.25 an hour.
I wish we could work on coming up with solutions for this situation and passing both of these pieces of legislation would move us in that direction. Unfortunately the political wrangling will mean that neither piece gets passed and we stay where we are.
For further information on this read TNLT’s article Senate Introduces Comp Time Bill to Blunt Action on Minimum Wage By Michael J. Lotito.
Photo credit: Microsoft clip art

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