Comp time for non-exempt workers? Has its time come?

Which would you choose?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), when a nonexempt employee works overtime the law requires that any time worked more than 40 hours in a week be paid in cash at the rate of 1.5 hours for every hour worked. What if there was a way to allow employees to take that pay as time rather than cash? There is a bill that has been introduced to both the House and the Senate that would allow just that.

Introducing flexibility?

I used to work in a manufacturing facility that was very busy in the spring and summer. The workers in production looked forward to this time in order to bolster their bank accounts, but by the end of the summer they were tired and no longer interested in overtime. Attendance became an issue as they switched from being interested in the money to being more interested in time off. The Working Families Flexibility Act would amend the FLSA to allow employers to pay for overtime by giving time off at the rate of 1.5 hours for every overtime hour worked. This arrangement is already allowed for federal workers, but not to the private sector. This bill was introduced to allow employees the flexibility to take the pay or take the time as they so choose.

Provisions of the bill

The general provisions of the bill are as follows:

  • The employee has to have worked for 1000 in a 12 month period before being able to agree to the provision
  • Agreement to get comp time cannot be a condition of employment, that is employees do not have to agree to the arrangement
  • The agreement must be in writing
  • The employee can only accrue a maximum of 160 hours per year in comp time
  • If not used the comp time has to be paid in full by Jan. 31st following the year earned
  • The employee can select when to use the time
  • Employers are prohibited from coercing employees to use or not use comp time
  • All earned comp time has to be paid out upon termination, regardless of the reason

There are other provisions, most of which relate to working in a union contract, but in all likelihood no union would agree to comp time provisions.

Arguments for and against

Opinions on this bill vary greatly. One example of a pro-stance is Overtime pay isn’t a cure-all: Make work flexible without the red tape. An example of an anti-stance is Calling the ‘comp time bill’ a scam is putting it gently. The former sees this bill as a way of increasing flexibility for families that need the extra time, while the latter sees it as a way to steal from employees. I personally see this bill as a step forward from the dated provisions of the FLSA, allowing some recognition of the modern world. So I would like to see the bill pass.

Has been around before

A similar bill was introduced under the Obama administration and did not pass. However, with a House and Senate now under Republican control, this bill stands a better chance of passing than it did in the previous administration. Only time will tell.
If passed would you institute a comp time policy in your workplace for nonexempt employees?

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