Are you paid hourly and often work overtime? Have you heard about the Working Families Flexibility Act passed by the House and are freaking out? What does it mean? What’s going to happen to your hard-earned money?
Chill out. Let’s break it down.
H.R. 1180: Working Families Flexibility Act
Right now, employers are required to pay you 1.5 times your pay rate for any time past 40 hours worked in any given week. Standard overtime pay that hourly workers are very familiar with.
What H.R. 1180 will do is allow employees a second option in lieu of overtime pay: comp time. So if you work 86 hours in a typical two-week pay period, you receive either six hours of pay at 1.5 times your base pay rate OR nine hours of vacation time to be collected in the future (1.5 hours for each hour of overtime worked).
This is designed for people like single parents who do not have enough time to spend with children. For example, if you know your child needs your presence in July, you can work overtime now and use the accrued comp time without cutting into your standard vacation time. Theoretically, of course.
Why this is nothing to worry about
Use it or lose it? Nope.
One point of concern deals with employers who have a “Use It or Lose It” system when it comes to time off, i.e. if you don’t use accrued time off within 12 months, you don’t get paid for it nor does it roll over. This is addressed in the bill:
Not later than January 31 of each calendar year, the employee’s employer shall provide monetary compensation for any unused compensatory time off accrued during the preceding calendar year that was not used prior to December 31 of the preceding year at the rate prescribed by paragraph (6). An employer may designate and communicate to the employer’s employees a 12-month period other than the calendar year, in which case such compensation shall be provided not later than 31 days after the end of such 12-month period.
In other words, your employer is required by law to either honor that comp time or pay up.
Even better, an employee doesn’t have to wait for the 12-month mark:
An employee may also request in writing that monetary compensation be provided, at any time, for all compensatory time accrued that has not yet been used.Within 30 days of receiving the written request, the employer shall provide the employee the monetary compensation due in accordance with paragraph
So if at any time you decide this comp time thing is a shitty deal, you can simply cash out what you have accrued.
Employee has the power
If you are worried that your employer may choose comp time instead of overtime pay, don’t. An employee may receive comp time for overtime work if, and only if, the employer offered and the employee “voluntarily” agreed and “not as a condition of employment.” This means the employer cannot make the decision for you. The option is yours and yours only.
This is important considering many opponents point out that low-income earners rely on overtime pay to pay rent and bills. If this is the case, such an employee will not opt for comp time and choose overtime pay instead. Overtime pay will not be taken away to those that need and earn it.
The only condition is that you cannot accrue more than 160 hours of comp time, which is the equivalent of approximately 107 hours of overtime. That’s about two hours of overtime every week or four hours of overtime in a two-week pay period.
Also, the employer can decide to terminate the comp time plan after 80 hours has been accrued. In other words, if you reach 80 hours of comp time this pay period, your boss may choose to give you overtime pay from the next pay period forward. After all, 80 hours is two extra weeks of vacation time and an employer may not be able to afford to have you absent any longer. In such an event, the employer must give the employee at least a 30-day notice.
So who does this negatively affect?
Anyone who works for an asshole, which there are plenty. Let me explain.
So far, we have learned that comp time under the Working Families Flexibility Act is 100 percent voluntary and that an employee can cash out or terminate the agreement at any time. So what’s the big deal?
Here’s the hypothetical: Let’s say Susan’s mom is undergoing chemo therapy and Susan knows that in three months she will need to spend several work days caring for her. Susan doesn’t necessarily need extra cash, but she values her vacation time. Since Susan regularly works overtime, she decides to accrue comp time instead, which she’ll use in three months to care for her mother.
Fast forward three months later: Susan needs to care for her mother soon, so she requests time off using comp time two weeks in advance. But there’s a problem: There’s a scheduling conflict that will not allow Susan’s employer to honor that comp time when she needs it.
(An employee) shall be permitted by the employee’s employer to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
This means the employer does have the power to decide when you can use that comp time. Most employers are understanding when it comes to these circumstances. However, many are complete dicks, and asshole employers are usually dicks to low-income employees rather than white-collar workers.
And that is really the only negative quality of the Working Families Flexibility Act. So as long as your boss isn’t a complete piece of shit, this bill can actually give you more options on how to use your overtime.