The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 12, 2017

GOP House OKs comp time for overtime

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Ignoring strong objections from the AFL-CIO and committee Democrats, the U.S. House of Representatives on May 2 approved the latest version of a favorite GOP cause, forcing workers into taking comp time – if it ever comes – instead of overtime pay.

The vote for the " Working Families Flexibility Act" was mostly along party lines, with all Democrats against it and six Republicans joining them. 

The Chamber of Commerce lobbied hard for comp time instead of overtime, in a hearing earlier this year. Business claims the legislation would give workers a choice between the two. "I don't think there's anything more powerful than giving them (workers) more control over their time so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families." said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington).

But in reality, the law allows bosses to force workers into taking comp time at the boss’ discretion. The law doesn't affect workers in collective bargaining agreements.

AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel, in a letter to lawmakers, said the comp time for overtime bill would hurt millions of workers by depriving them of pay they need. 

“The Working Families Flexibility Act (HR1180) would weaken overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), reduce take-home pay for millions of workers, and result in longer hours, more unpredictable schedules, and higher day care costs for working parents,” Samuel said.

“The FLSA established the 40-hour workweek to allow employees to spend more time away from work. The  only incentive to uphold the 40-hour workweek is the requirement that employers pay a time-and-a-half cash premium for overtime. The FLSA discourages” firms  “from demanding excessive hours by making overtime work more expensive for” companies.

“HR1180, by contrast, would encourage employers to demand excessive hours by making overtime work cheaper for them. It would allow employers to pay workers nothing at all for overtime work at the time workers perform the work. 

“It would then allow employers to schedule compensatory time off at their own convenience, such as during less-busy periods, when they would not incur any additional cost. Making overtime cheaper for employers would undermine the...40-hour work-week, resulting in longer hours and more unpredictable schedules for working people and higher day care costs for working parents.”

The GOP legislation “would also reduce take-home pay for millions of workers who are compensated with time off rather than cash. These workers would no longer receive any supplementary income as a result of their overtime work.” And comp time means workers would lose “the extra ‘bump’ to their paycheck on which millions currently rely,” Samuel said.

“By making overtime cheaper for employers, the Working Families Flexibility Act would create economic pressures that make it highly unlikely comp time would be truly voluntary. HR1180 would create a cost advantage for businesses that no longer pay cash overtime, and would do nothing to prevent employers from discriminating – in hiring or in the award of overtime hours – against workers who insist on being paid cash overtime.”

The legislation now goes to the U.S. Senate.