House Vote on Comp Time Bill Could Be May 2

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By Tyrone Richardson

The House is expected to vote as early as May 2 on a Republican bill that would let employers offer paid time off instead of time-and-a-half wages for overtime hours, congressional aides told Bloomberg BNA.

The House Rules Committee May 1 voted to approve floor consideration of the Working Families Flexibility Act ( H.R. 1180, S. 801). The procedural action tees up the legislation for debate and a full House vote as early as May 2.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala), would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow employers and workers to voluntarily agree to 1.5 hours of compensatory time for every hour of overtime worked, for up to 160 hours of leave. The requested time would have to be approved by the employer.

Republicans tout the legislation as a way to provide workforce flexibility, but Democrats say it could allow employers to coerce workers to choose leave over overtime pay.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and a former labor lawyer, said there are safeguards to thwart employers from such actions.

“The bill includes strong protections to ensure the use of comp time is completely voluntary,” Byrne, chairman of the panel’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee, said April 5.

Cash-Out if Worker Leaves Job

The proposed bill, which has 17 Republican co-sponsors, includes provisions that would allow workers to cash out their comp time if they leave the job. The measure would also have to be reauthorized after five years, a process that requires a Government Accountability Office study on its impacts and enforcement.

The measure is expected to get strong support from Republicans. Some GOP lawmakers told Bloomberg BNA they hope to garner votes from moderate Democrats, especially those up for Senate re-election in 2018.

The House passed a version of the comp time bill in 2013. That bill passed by a vote of 223-204, which included support from three Democrats.

The expected floor vote also comes as an Obama administration rule to expand overtime eligibility is on hold, pending federal litigation in Texas. The rule would double the salary threshold—up to about $47,500—below which workers automatically qualify for time-and-a-half overtime pay.

Would Cover Private Industry Workforce

The bill would cover private-sector workers. Congress amended the FLSA in 1985 to allow public-sector employees to be given comp time for overtime hours worked.

A Senate version was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. An aide for that committee told Bloomberg BNA April 26 that HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will consult “with labor committee members and the Senate leadership on next steps.”

The Senate version is likely to get some traction, partly because it counts Alexander and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) among 19 Republican co-sponsors.

The Senate version would need some Democrat support to avoid a filibuster. A spokeswoman for McConnell didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment May 2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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