House Passes The Working Families Flexibility Act

May 10, 2017

On May 2, the House passed an overtime bill that would give employees who work longer hours more time off by giving them a choice between taking time off or being paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The Working Families Flexibility Act, sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), passed by a vote of 229 to 197.

H.R. 1180 would alter the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow certain employees to choose to take paid time off rather than overtime pay when working more than 40 hours in a week. According to supporters of the bill, some workers would rather take earned time off, known as “comp time,” instead of receiving overtime pay. However, Democrats largely opposed the bill, saying it would undermine crucial labor protections.

The measure would allow private-sector companies to offer employees a choice between “comp time” and overtime pay. Under the bill, employees could accrue up to 160 hours of compensatory time in a year, at 1.5 hours for each hour worked. The choice between comp time and overtime pay would be up to the employee or subject to a bargaining agreement. Any unused time would have to be paid back by the employer at the end of the year. Employees would not be forced to take time off, if they prefer to cash in for a larger paycheck. Likewise, private-sector employers would not be forced to participate in the program. They could continue paying overtime, but according to the backers of the bill, would likely save money by offering paid time off instead.

Republican supporters have said that the legislation brings needed reform to the “outdated” FLSA and would give private-sector employees more flexibility to meet family needs, go to appointments and otherwise achieve a work-life balance. Although the bill includes anti-coercion measures, such as requiring employers to respect employees’ decisions and forbidding employers from forcing employees to use their time off, some Democrats have said the nature of the employment relationship would give employers too much power to shift workers to the cheaper option.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced a companion bill (S. 801) in the Senate, but it remains unclear whether Republicans will be able to overcome a Democratic filibuster. President Trump’s advisors have indicated that he will sign the bill if presented. Should the bill become law, it will have broad-reaching impacts on nearly all employers in the private sector. However, employers in states with daily or other more stringent overtime requirements–such as California–may not see much change at all, depending on their states’ interplay with the FLSA.