The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enacted important protections for U.S. workers in both the public and private sectors. The overtime clause of the FLSA requires time and a half pay for any hours worked in a week over 40 hours. If you make $10 per hour, and if you work 42 hours in a week, you get paid $15 per hour for the two extra hours.
Comp time, on the other hand, allows the employee to take the extra two hours off another week. An employee who works 42 hours one week may work only 38 hours the next. She is paid for 40 hours each week. Since the FLSA was passed in 1938, comp time is illegal. This protects wage laborers in two ways.
1) It discourages employers from requesting extra time in any given week because it is expensive. Some wage laborers may not feel comfortable saying “no” to their boss, because they want to keep their jobs.
2) It ensures that when wage laborers do work extra, they get well compensated.
Unfortunately, the rights of workers under the FLSA are currently under attack. The House of Representatives passed Eric Cantor’s Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1406) last Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Act removes the right to overtime pay and allows employers to “request” employees take comp time, instead.
There is nothing in this Act that offers working families flexibility. Just the opposite is true. As stated above, wage laborers may feel uncomfortable and unsafe saying “no” to comp time. There is no provision in the law for allowing employees to choose when they take the comp time. This Act simply opens the door for employers to take workers away from their families for extra hours and not have to compensate them appropriately. If this passes, more workers will work more overtime for less pay.
Fortunately, Obama has indicated that he would veto the bill. Jezebel quotes the White House as saying, “This legislation undermines the existing right to hard-earned overtime pay, on which many working families rely to make ends meet, while misrepresenting itself as a workplace-flexibility measure that gives power to employees over their own schedules.” Thank you, President Barack Obama, for promising to stand up for working families.
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