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House Passes PTO Alternative to Overtime Pay

May 21, 2013

The Working Families Flexibility Act has passed its first major hurdle with a 223-204 approval in the House of Representatives recently, meaning employers are one step closer to being able to get out of paying mandated overtime, if they offer workers paid time off instead.
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Our Los Angeles employment lawyers are deeply concerned for what this bill would mean for the working families after whom it's named. Certainly, there may be some who would rather have the time off than the money. Our problem is that it appears the worker isn't the one being given the option.

As it now stands, current labor laws require that employers pay time-and-a-half for every hour a worker puts in over 40 hours in a given week.

The problem, say opponents, is that H.R. 1406 fails to protect lower-income workers from collecting overtime pay, if that's what they actually prefer. Under the guidelines of the bill, companies are given enough latitude to pressure workers into taking comp time instead. There is also no guarantee in the bill that workers are going to be able to use that compensatory time when they want to do so. In effect, it doesn't guarantee that workers can use that time they earn when they want or need it most, which may render it far less invaluable to them.

It's not even the first time the bill was proposed. A similar measure was introduced back in 1997, though it wasn't painted as a "family friendly" measure. The packaging has changed, say political analysts, as the Republican party attempts to portray itself as more friendly to families and women.

Opponents of the measure argue that the concept of overtime pay has been a mainstay in the American workforce, and it's there to ensure employers don't abuse their workers.

An editorial penned in The New York Times called the bill the "Family Unfriendly Act." The writer goes so far as to call the measure a form of "fraud."

The bill contains no real incentive for companies to give workers a clear choice - and no deterrence for forcing them to do as the company wishes. The only real recourse at that point is filing an employment lawsuit.

For employees who refuse to work overtime for no extra pay, the end result is likely to be that they will receive fewer hours and less pay overall. For those who accept it, the arrangement is likely to mean there will be a great amount of unpredictability in their scheduling. That's going to lead to more stress and higher costs for work-related expenses - i.e., child care. However, there won't be any additional funds to cover those expenses.

If Congress were truly interested in improving work-life balance and employee pay, there are a number of other, clearly effective ways they could do it. Those might include boosting the minimum wage, instituting paid sick leave for more career fields, longer paid maternity leave schedules, and end to gender discriminatory pay practices, promoting advance notice for employment scheduling and easing the formation of unions.

Measures like won't do workers any favors.

Los Angeles Employment Attorney VINCENT HOWARD at HOWARD LAW can help. Call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.

Additional Resources:
House passes GOP measure to offer PTO alternative to overtime pay, May 8, 2013, By Nancy Cordes, CBS News

More Blog Entries:
Study Shows Increase in Wage and Hour Lawsuits for Five Consecutive Years, May 16, 2013, Los Angeles Labor Lawyer Blog