Comp-Time Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act considered

By Bill Leonard Nov 8, 2013
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Legislation that would give employers the option to offer hourly workers compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay was introduced Oct. 30, 2013, in the U.S. Senate.

The Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act (S. 1626) is the Senate version of a similar “comp time” bill that theHouse of Representatives (H.R. 1406) passed in May. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the key sponsor of the Senate measure.

“The Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act will help provide America’s workers with the flexible work arrangements they need,” McConnell said in a news statement. “While Congress can’t legislate another hour in the day, we can help working Americans better balance the demands of work and family.”

Federal wage and hour laws prohibit employers from offering comp time to workers who are not exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). S. 1626 would amend the FLSA and allow private employers to offer hourly workers 1.5 hours of compensatory time for every hour of overtime worked.

The changes to the law would give employees the option of choosing either money or comp time as overtime compensation. The Senate bill closely resembles the House-passed version except for a provision that would allow employers to create voluntary flexible credit-hour programs. These programs would give part-time workers or those who typically don’t work overtime the option to earn credits for hours worked in excess of their normal weekly schedules. Workers who participate in the programs would accrue credit hours and then be able to use them as leave.

Supporters of the bill point out that federal government employees are eligible to receive comp time and can participate in flexible credit-hour arrangements.

“This legislation extends the same options currently available to those in the public sector to working families in the private sector,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a co-sponsor of S. 1626. “Comp time/flex time would enable employees and employers to choose to enter into voluntary agreements that would allow greater flexibility for those who want to better balance their work-life demands.”

Business and employer-advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), support the passage of S. 1626. However, sources familiar with the issue agree that the measure faces an uncertain future and an uphill battle in the Senate.

Labor unions strongly oppose the bill, and many Democratic leaders in the Senate, such as Tom Harkin of Iowa, are longtime supporters of organized labor. Harkin, who is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will play a pivotal role in deciding if S. 1626 has any chance of advancing in the chamber. When the House passed its version of the legislation, in May, White House officials indicated that President Obama would veto the measure if it passed both houses of Congress.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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