The Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180), introduced in February by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow private-sector employers to get out of the requirement to pay overtime and instead give hourly employees comp time. In a new memo, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey and Labor Counsel Celine McNicholas explain that the bill does not give working families more flexibility—it simply lets employers delay paying any wages for overtime work for as long as 13 months.
“The threshold for overtime eligibility has eroded over the past 40 years, creating a generally overworked middle class as workers are paid less money while working longer hours,” said McNicholas. “The way to address this issue is to strengthen overtime protections—not, as H.R. 1180 does, create a new employer right to avoid paying workers overtime.”
McNicholas and Eisenbrey write that H.R. 1180 would lead to lower wages for working people without increasing flexibility. Under the legislation, it would still be up to employers to determine when and if their employees are able to use the comp time they have earned. Thus H.R. 1180 forces workers to compromise their paychecks for the possibility—but not the guarantee—that they will get time off from work when they need it.
The FLSA already permits a wide range of flexible work schedules. Crucially, employers are permitted to reward employees for working paid overtime with unpaid time off later on—the result being that the total annual hours worked and income received would be the same as under Rep. Roby’s comp time in lieu of overtime proposal, but workers would not have to wait for up to 13 months to be paid for the overtime hours. In other words, everything the comp time bill purports to provide for workers is actually available under the FLSA.