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It’s Time to Erase a Double Standard

Freedom. Flexibility. Fairness. That’s what the Working Families and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180) is all about. Introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), the bill would give workers eligible for overtime pay the freedom to choose between paid time off and cash wages. As a result, workers would have more flexibility to spend time with their family or take care of personal responsibilities.

The bill would also establish more fairness in federal workforce policies. Public-sector employees have long benefited from the choice of comp time. But outdated federal policies prohibit private-sector workers from having the same opportunity. As Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said during the committee’s markup of the bill:

This double standard isn’t fair. Private-sector workers should have the same freedom and flexibility provided to workers in the public sector.

Unfortunately, Democrats, Big Labor, and so-called progressive organizations have defended this double standard for years. They claim the bill fails to protect workers. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, under H.R. 1180: 

  • The decision to receive comp time is completely voluntary. An employee who prefers to receive cash payment for overtime hours worked is always free to do so. Those who prefer comp time would do so through a written agreement with their employer.
  • All existing protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act are maintained, including the 40-hour workweek and how overtime compensation is accrued.
  • No worker can be intimidated, coerced, or forced to accept comp time instead of cash wages. Employers who coerce employees into choosing comp time would be liable to the employees for double damages.
  • All existing enforcement remedies — including action by the U.S. Department of Labor — are available to workers if an employer fails to pay cash wages for overtime hours or unreasonably refuses to allow workers to use accrued comp time.
  • Workers can withdraw from a comp time agreement whenever they choose. An employee who changes his or her mind will receive cash wages at the overtime rate of time-and-a-half for accrued comp time within 30 days.
  • It is up to the employee to decide when to use his or her comp time, as long as reasonable notice is given and the requested time off is not overly disruptive — the same standard used by public-sector workers and under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • An employee can cash out his or her unused comp time for any reason and at any time. Employers are required to provide cash wages at the overtime rate of time-and-a-half within 30 days of receiving an employee request.
  • Employers must provide employees 30 days’ notice of a decision to discontinue offering comp time, providing workers and their families an opportunity to adjust to this change in the workplace.

In their effort to deny workers the choice they deserve, Democrats have run out of excuses not to support this commonsense proposal. It’s time to come together and empower workers to better balance work, life, and family by passing the Working Families Flexibility Act.

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