This month, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 229-197 the Republican-backed overtime bill titled the Working Families Flexibility Act. The act would enable employees to choose taking “comp time” or paid time off work instead of receiving overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Proponents of the bill say this will provide increased flexibility for workers who want to spend more time with their families, but critics believe it will weaken federal overtime protections and make it easier for employers to delay paying earned overtime wages.
If enacted, the proposed legislation would enable employers to offer eligible employees the option to receive 1.5 hours of comp time for each hour worked over 40 in a week, and employees could accrue up to 160 hours of comp time in a year. Employees are eligible when they have worked at least 1,000 hours in a 12-month period, and each employee would have to agree in writing to participate in the comp time program. Because the program is voluntary, employers and employees both would be able to opt out of the program at any time with 30 days’ notice, and employees would receive cash for any unused time off. Additionally, unused comp time would not roll over from one year to the next; rather, participating employers would have to pay employees for all leftover time at the end of each year.
The act expressly prohibits employers from intimidating, threatening or coercing employees to choose the comp time program or forcing them to use all of the time off they accrued. Employees must also be permitted to use their comp time “within a reasonable period” after making a request. Employers who fail to adhere to these requirements could face penalties similar to those under the Fair Labor Standards Act, including double damages for unpaid amounts owed.
There is some speculation that the bill could face a Democratic filibuster if moved forward by the Senate. No Democrats voted in favor of the act in the House, and unlike House proposals, Senate bills can be filibustered — or kept from an up-or-down vote — by opponents. It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to break a filibuster, and Republicans hold only 52 seats.