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Witnesses Urge Members to Extend Workplace Flexibility to More Americans


The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), held a legislative hearing today on a commonsense proposal that would help Americans better balance work, family, and personal needs. Introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), the Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180) would allow private-sector employers to offer workers the choice of paid time off or cash wages for overtime hours.

For more than 30 years, public-sector employees have been able to accrue "comp time" for working overtime hours. But outdated federal rules prevent private-sector workers from receiving the same flexibility.

“This simply isn’t right, and it isn’t fair. Private-sector workers should be afforded the same freedom to do what’s best for themselves and their families,” Chairman Byrne said. “For many Americans working paycheck to paycheck, earning extra overtime pay is the choice that’s best for them. But the federal government shouldn’t assume that’s the best choice for all workers.”

Witnesses shared real-world stories detailing the consequences of denying workers the opportunity to choose comp time.

“Many Wellstone employees work side by side with Huntsville Police Department officers, who do benefit from the option of receiving overtime pay or comp time,” said Leslie Christ, chief resource officer of an Alabama nonprofit focused on behavioral health. “It is difficult for employees to understand why the rules are different for public or governmental agencies when they work so hard for our community.”

Christ went on to explain how hard it was to inform an expecting mother that she couldn’t accrue comp time. “She incurred significant overtime and asked me if she could ‘waive’ the overtime to ‘credit’ her that time … I had to explain to her that we were unable to do so because it was against the law,” Christ said. “It was difficult conveying this message to this single mom-to-be, who felt she should be allowed the option to choose for herself whether to take the overtime pay or paid leave when her child was born.”

Crystal Frey, vice president of human resources for a Maryland real estate business, shared how comp time would help employees juggling school, family, and work. “I was recently approached by a non-exempt leasing consultant who was facing numerous life-changing events at one time, including the birth of her child, her upcoming marriage, and the completion of her college degree … If comp time had been an option available to her, I believe it would have given her even more access to paid leave.”

Witnesses also rejected false claims by Democrats and special interest groups that H.R. 1180 does not provide worker protections.

Leonard Court, a labor attorney with years of experience, reminded members, “The bill is carefully drafted to ensure that employees retain maximum flexibility in being able to choose whether to take the comp time option, whether to continue exercising it, when they may seek a cash out of their banked time, and to protect them from any coercion or undue influence from the employer as to whether they exercise the comp time option.”

Court added, “The Fair Labor Standards Act’s 40-hour workweek as the threshold for earning overtime compensation remains totally untouched.”

Christ explained how the bill puts workers in control. “If an employee opted to participate in a comp time arrangement but later realized that overtime pay was a greater need, the employee would have the right to discontinue participating in the comp time program after given written notice,” Christ said. 

Urging Congress to pass the Working Families Flexibility Act, Frey said, “It is troubling that Congress has not yet extended this same benefit to hardworking private-sector employees. In the 21st century workplace, it’s time to give private-sector non-exempt employees the opportunity to choose for themselves whether to receive cash wages or paid time off for working overtime.”

Expressing his support for the legislation, Chairman Byrne called on members of both parties to empower workers and families with more flexibility so they can succeed in the 21st century workforce:

This legislation is ultimately about a few basic principles: Freedom, choice, and fairness. An antiquated federal law shouldn’t limit the ability of private-sector employees to better balance work and family. Democrats and Republicans came together in 1985 to amend the law to provide more choices for public-sector workers, and it’s about time we did the same for workers in the private sector.