House passes GOP 'comp time' bill

House passes GOP 'comp time' bill
© Greg Nash

The House passed a Republican-backed overtime bill Tuesday that would give employees who work long hours more time off, though Democrats are concerned it will take a bite out of their paychecks.

The Working Families Flexibility Act passed 229-197.

The overtime bill would give employees a choice between taking time off or being paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

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Republicans say this will provide more flexibility for working parents, who would like to spend more time with their families. But Democrats argue low-wage workers who need the extra money could feel pressured to take time off when they would prefer a bigger paycheck.

“As a working mom myself, I understand all too well how challenging it can be to balance career and family,” said Rep. Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyBrooks’s prior attacks on Trump could hurt in Alabama Senate race How the GOP came to dominate, and be dominated by, rural voters House GOP not sold on Ryan’s tax reform plan MORE (R-Ala.), who sponsored the bill.

“Ask any working parent and they’ll tell you just how precious their time is,” she added.

At issue is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires private-sector companies to pay time-and-a-half to hourly employees who work overtime.

But some workers would rather take earned time off, known as "comp time," instead of receiving overtime pay, Republicans contend.

The GOP legislation would allow private-sector companies to offer workers a choice between “comp time” and overtime pay. Workers could save as much as 160 hours — or about one month’s worth — of paid time off. At the end of the year, their companies would pay them for any time off they don’t use.

Employees would not be forced to take time off, if they prefer to cash in a bigger paycheck, Roby said.

Likewise, private-sector employers would not be forced to participate in the program. They could continue paying overtime, but would likely save money by offering paid time off instead.

This is the same way public-sector government employers operate, Republicans point out.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah) is sponsoring a companion bill, but it is unclear whether Republicans will be able to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the upper chamber.

Democrats argue that low-wage workers who need the money will feel pressure to take time off to appease their employers.

“While they say it’s voluntary and a matter of their choice, as a practical matter, it’s not,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

He called it the “Freedom to Make Less bill.”

“This bill takes away overtime pay and instead the worker gets a vague ‘IOU’ ” said Rep. Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciReporter beats lawmakers to win charity spelling bee Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Dems to Mattis: Don't delay transgender enlistment policy MORE (D-Ore.).

Employees who agree to take time off, instead of receiving overtime pay, would essentially be giving their companies a loan, Democrats say.

“Employees would be far better off getting paid time-and-a-half for their overtime hours and putting that money in the bank where it can earn interest, rather than having their paychecks withheld indefinitely,” according to a Democratic fact sheet.