Just days after it was introduced, the Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1406) was debated during a House subcommittee hearing on Thursday. Introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), this bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to permit private-sector employees to opt for paid time off (“comp time”) at a rate of at least one-and-one-half hours of compensatory time per hour of overtime pay earned. Although similar legislation has been introduced over the years, Rep. Roby claimed that the current bill addresses some of the concerns expressed during previous congressional terms.
Opening the hearing, Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) stated that for nearly 30 years members of the public sector have enjoyed the use of comp time off in lieu of cash wages, and that it is “only fair to extend the same benefits to millions of workers in the private sector.” He said that giving private sector employees the choice between cash wages and paid time off is “an issue whose time has come.”
Rep. Roby emphasized that her bill does not change the 40-hour workweek nor how overtime pay is calculated. She claimed that for some workers “having extra paid time off is more valuable than money,” and that “the law shouldn’t make it more difficult to help employees balance their time.” The legislation leaves it up to the employee to decide whether or not they want comp time, and includes several employee protections to ensure that the comp time option is voluntary. For example, the bill stipulates that there must be a written agreement between the employee and employer from which the employee can withdraw and cash out accrued work time.
Several hearing witnesses spoke in favor of the bill, including Juanita Phillips, Director of Human Resources for Intuitive Research and Technology Corp. Speaking on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Phillips said that the use of comp time has worked well for public employees for nearly three decades, and that permitting non-exempt private sector employees the choice of cash payments or paid time off gives them more control over their time. Under current law, private sector employees do not have such a choice, she said.
Andy Brantley, President and CEO of CUPA-HR, echoed this sentiment. He testified that non-exempt employees want the same benefits as their exempt counterparts.
Ranking member Joe Courtney (D-CT), however, claimed that this bill would force employees “to compromise their paychecks in order to get time off.” Courtney expressed concern that the bill does not address what happens to the accrued comp time in the event a firm goes out of business or files for bankruptcy. He also argued that tracking comp time would place an administrative burden on employers. Judith Lichtman, Senior Advisor for the National Partnership for Women and Families, claimed that the bill “sets up a false dichotomy between time and money at a time when working families desperately need both.” She criticized the bill for lacking an adequate enforcement mechanism.
A complete list of panelists and links to their testimony can be found here.