Offering employees the choice between comp time in place of overtime is a benefit that the public sector has but the private sector does not. The benefit allows employees to choose between getting paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week or getting one and a half times the overtime hours added to the employee’s comp time balance.
The benefit is appealing to some employers and employees; some employers don’t want to pay overtime and some employees prefer time off to more money. There are groups that recognize this and are advocating to make this benefit widely available.
Bill Presented to Congress
On April 5th, 2017 Leslie Christ and Crystal Frey presented to congress a proposed amendment to the FLSA on behalf of the SHRM called the Working Families Flexibility Act H.R. 1180. This bill would allow employees to chose to receive comp time instead of overtime payment.
This bill would allow employees to choose whether they want to be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week or be given one and a half hours in comp time for every hour of overtime worked.
The bill has a few provisions to protect employee’s rights. First, an employee does not have to participate in this option and cannot be coerced by the employer to receive comp time in lieu of overtime payment. Second, employees can cash out their comp time anytime and the employer has 30 days to comply. Lastly, the employee can use accrued comp time “within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
Opponents to the bill see it simply as a way for employers to save money at the expense of the employee. Since employers can decline an employee’s request for time off and take a full month to remit payment for a cash out request, the employee’s money is essentially sitting in the employer’s bank, sometimes for up to a year without payment.
Some opponents think that employers will take advantage of employees by not offering overtime shifts to those who opted out, essentially and discretely coercing them to opt in. Of course, this may happen, but it is likely that these employers are abusers in general and probably aren’t fair in more practices than just this one. All the laws in the world aren’t going to stop abusers from abusing.
My fear is that some employers may reduce their paid time off offering and instruct their workforce to work more hours if they want time off. I hope employers don’t get this idea if the bill does pass. It could be a major step in the wrong direction since the US is already so behind other developed nations in time off policies.
While some employers may indeed end up benefiting from the program, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In business, employers typically benefit in some way from the benefits they offer their employees and it’s usually a win-win. There are a lot of employees that would prefer extra time off than overtime payment. This bill gives employees an option between time and a half time off or payment.
Comp Time Converter Tool
If this law ends up changing, Timesheets.com can help employers manage the comp time. Comp time can be converted with a simple tool that adds any overtime employees worked during a pay period to their comp time category. The tool is a nice feature and will become a very popular one if the benefit is made available for the whole private sector.