A measure that would allow private-sector employees to take paid time off, or “comp time,” for overtime accrued passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday but faces an uncertain fate.
The bill, approved on a vote of 223-204, is one piece of the “Making Life Work” agenda that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, has been promoting. The agenda places less emphasis on federal budget math and more on education, medical research and flexible work time.
Under the approved measure, employees could choose whether to take paid overtime or compensatory time — time off which would be accrued at the same rate as overtime pay — time and a half over 40 hours.
Employees would have to enter an agreement with their employer to seek comp time, but the employee could withdraw from the pact at any time and take the wages in cash.
Proponents say it would bring the private sector in line with public-sector employees, who can take paid time off outside of the pay period in which it was accrued. But opponents have raised a series of concerns, including that workers would not be guaranteed that they could take the time when they choose.
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Cantor and other supporters say the bill, dubbed the Working Families Flexibility Act and sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby, a Republican from Alabama, would help workers better balance family and work.
“As a father of three, I can tell you as a working parent, I know that it’s very necessary to be there for your children. And I bet no matter who you are as a working parent, if you ask a mom or a dad what they need more of, it’s time,” Cantor said on the House floor.
“Washington should not be in the way of more freedom in the workplace.”
Earlier this week, Cantor held a discussion about the bill in Falls Church and was joined by two Richmond-area businesspeople who support the legislation’s aim — Nicole Eubanks-Lambert, owner of Rainbow Station at Wyndham in Glen Allen, and Kimberly Silverthorne Mills, general manager and co-owner of Homemades by Suzanne in Ashland.
But the measure’s fate in the Senate is uncertain and the Obama administration has expressed opposition.
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, of Maryland, on Wednesday called it the “pay working families less” bill because, he said, “what it will result in is a cut in pay for almost everybody.”
Some workers, who can afford it, will volunteer for comp time, while others cannot, he said.
“And so they will not be able to earn overtime because the employer will invariably, not because they’re bad people, but will invariably go to the person that will in fact do it for free,” he said.
“I understand it’s comp time, but they won’t get paid. Most workers at this level need the pay. They need to pay their mortgage, they need to pay their car payment, they need to send their kids to school.”
Cantor said this week that he is having conversations “to hopefully see a Senate co-sponsor come forward” and sponsor similar legislation.