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Lansing Labor News
Established 1945
September 25, 2017
Recording Secretary Scott Lounds
Updated On: Jun 05, 2017

Overtime vs. comp time
Sometimes what seems on its face to be a good thing has hidden perils; and when I see groups like the Chamber of Commerce or the Society for Human Resource Management, two pro-business/anti-worker groups lining up to sing the praises of a new piece of legislation, I immediately become suspicious. Case in point is the latest from our friends in Congress.
The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would let private sector employees choose either time-and-a-half overtime pay bill with the grandiose name of The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 was—as has become commonplace—passed along party lines. The bill, on its face, allows eligible employees to choose comp time to be used at a later date instead of receiving immediate pay for overtime hours. 
Supporters of the bill, which includes most pro-business groups, play up the flexibility the new rules will give to employees. But, to me, this is overshadowed by the fact that workers are required to give “reasonable notice” before being granted this time off and employers are not required to grant the comp time if it would “unduly disrupt” the workplace.
As a lawyer and someone who has worked as a Committeeperson, the language used in this bill—such as “reasonable” and “unduly”—is ripe for argument and conflict. The meaning of the term “reasonable notice” will certainly end up being defined by the courts, as will “unduly disrupt.” So in the meantime the employers will undoubtedly be putting restrictions on when comp time is used that harms workers and helps management. Management will bank on the fact that most workers will be unwilling or unable to fight a court battle to determine what the definition of “reasonable” is under this proposed law.
Now, if you are lucky enough to be working under a collective bargaining agreement, these issues can be solved through negotiations and the grievance procedure. But imagine if you were an at-will employee working on a low-wage job, or even a high wage job. Without the protections of a union, not many people will be willing to fight the company’s definition of “reasonable notice” or what “unduly disrupts” the workplace, when doing so will likely lead to their termination.
A similar problem would be the policing of the choice of overtime or comp time being up to the employee. The proposed law speaks to the choice being free from employer pressure or coercion, but without a union, who is there to make sure that these rules are followed? The courts? Again, the type of workers most affected by these rules will likely not have time or money to pursue action through the Federal Court system.
In the end, this bill reduces worker incomes in the long term and does not provide useable protections to the employees. But, with the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce backing it I am not surprised that it is anti-worker.

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