House Passes Bill on Voluntary Comp Time With Accrual of Up to 160 Hours a Year

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By Christine Pulfrey

Employers could provide workers, by voluntary agreement, with paid time off in lieu of wages as compensation for overtime hours worked under a measure passed May 2 by the House.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (H.R. 1180) was introduced Feb. 16, by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) and was approved April 26 by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce by a straight party line vote of 22-16. The measure allows employees to accrue up to 160 hours of paid time off in a 12-month period, in lieu of overtime wages, at a rate of at least one and one-half hours for each hour of overtime worked.

Unused compensatory time must be converted to overtime wages at the end of a designated 12-month period. The conversion must occur within 31 days, and the accrued time must be paid at the higher of the employee's regular pay rate when the time was earned or the final regular rate received by the employee.

Accrued comp time may be used “within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer,” the measure said.

With 30 days’ notice, employers could cash-out employees’ comp time in excess of 80 hours or discontinue its comp-time policy. Likewise, with 30 days’ notice, employees could choose to end participation in the program.

Employers found in violation of the bill's requirements could be liable to the affected employees for the amount of compensation owed for each hour of accrued comp time and an additional equal amount as damages, less any compensatory time used by the worker.

The bill offers workers the flexibility and time-off that they want, proponents of the bill have said. The Fair Labor Standards Act already provides the flexibility that the bill purports to offer, opponents have said, noting that allowing employers to defer payment of comp time for up to 13 months amounts to an interest-free loan.

“This bill is about freedom, flexibility and fairness,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education on the Workforce, noting that it gives workers the freedom for workers to choose what is best for themselves and their families. For some workers, money in the bank may be the best choice for them, and nothing in the bill would take that away, but other workers would seize the opportunity for time off with their family, she said.

The measure “weakens protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act at the moment that we ought to be strengthening the law,” said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.). Under the bill, employers could withhold overtime pay for a long time, which otherwise would be a violation of the FLSA, and it undermines the 40 hours workweek mechanism, he said.

Versions of the measure have been introduced over the past 20 years but have failed to become law.

By Christine Pulfrey

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Trimarchi at mtrimarchi@bna.com.

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