Thursday, May 4, 2017

House Passes Comp Time Bill

Let the games begin…..

So, again, there is an attempt to offer private-sector employees something that public-sector employees (local, state and federal government employees) have always had: the ability to receive compensation for overtime in time off rather than cash (wages). And again, there are those who disagree strongly. Nothing unusual there; although that opposition again presents itself in some pretty ugly ways. Specifically, the provisions of this offering are often misrepresented, or are even flat-out presented falsely.

What are we talking about? Here are two articles that give you the gist of the bill. One from NBC News and one from The Hill. Basically, the bill would allow private sector employers to offer their hourly, non-exempt employees the choice of receiving time and one-half pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, or receive the same amount in time off – or "compensatory time". It is completely voluntary, must be agreed to before the work is performed, and the agreement can be revoked by the employee at any time. Those are the basics.

Opponents are saying that it will allow for the employer to coerce employees into accepting time-off vs. pay for overtime worked, and that it delays their receipt of the compensation since the employer can dictate when time off can be taken. 

There are two quotes that (so far) have really stood out for me, and illustrate the "false" and "misleading" charges I stated above.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted "Today, @HouseGOP are voting to make it legal for employers to cheat workers out of overtime. It's a disgrace." Really, Sen. Warren? So, does that mean that all local, state and federal government employees have been cheated all these years? Does that mean that the congressional aides that work for you are being cheated? If so, then there are tens of thousands of government employees who should now have a massive class action against the federal government. I wonder how that will work. This bill simply gives private employers the same ability that public employers have had – and gives private-sector employees the same option that public-sector employees have had. And, I might add – with more generous terms across the board.

The decision to accept time off in lieu of wages is voluntary, and can be revoked at any time by the employee. The bill does not allow employers to make a wholesale decision for all employees across the board forever. Each individual employee can make his/her own decision at any time, and revoke it at any time. The bill also requires that any unused comp time be paid out within 30 days of the end of the year (either calendar or fiscal, depending on how the business operates). It also requires that the time be paid out at the wage rate either in effect at the point the time was earned, or when it is paid out – whichever is higher. Similar provisions are included in the instance an employee changes his/her mind and wishes to receive pay instead of comp-time during the operating year. 

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici states that "This bill takes away overtime pay and instead the worker gets a vague ‘IOU’." A tad misleading Ms. Bonamici. Just is as the case with any request for time off, an employer is allowed to require reasonable notice of intent to use the compensatory time. Again, it doesn’t take away overtime pay. It simply offers employees a choice – again the same choice enjoyed by government employees.

These two quotes, and others like them, are what most news outlets have been leading with when reporting on this bill. They fail to go into any detail whatsoever that would more adequately explain the true nature of this bill. If you only listen to or read the "headlines" you don’t get the full story or the true story. No one should decide whether this is a good bill or a bad bill based only on what the attention-getting story "headlines" are, or even just reading a blog on the internet. Dig deeper and get the facts, then make your decision. In light of that, here is the actual text of the bill (it's fairly short, so don't panic!):

HB 1180

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