For decades, corporate interest groups have sought to undermine the overtime protections that have formed the bedrock of American workers’ rights since 1938 when the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) was enacted. The two best-known provisions of the FLSA have become part of the basic American understanding of work. First, employers must pay the minimum wage set by Congress. Second, employers cannot force employees to work more than 40 hours in a workweek without paying them time-and-a-half for overtime.
Now, the 40-hour workweek and overtime rights are threatened by a bill that employer groups have sought to push through for years. That bill is H.R. 1180, dubbed by its supporters the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017.” While the name suggests that the bill will provide working families with more flexible schedules, the opposite is the truth.
Under this bill, the requirement that overtime work over 40 hours in a week must be paid at time-and-a-half will be replaced. Employers will have the ability to require overtime work without paying employees for hours over 40. Instead, employers will be permitted to offer compensatory time off, commonly known as “comp time”, for overtime work. In a given week, an employee might work 60 hours and only be paid for 40 with the promise of using comp time at some point in the future.
One of the many problems with this bill is that it leaves the use of comp time up to the employer. Under the bill, only if the use of comp time “does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer” may employees use their comp time “within a reasonable period” after making a request to use it. In other words, even after providing overtime labor in exchange for comp time, an employee’s request to use his or her comp time is subject to a veto by the employer.
Our firm has represented thousands of workers seeking to enforce their overtime rights and will be monitoring this bill closely. To learn more about our Wage & Overtime practice, click here.
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