EDITORIAL: House passes bill to give workers the option of taking comp time over overtime pay

If you are currently eligible for overtime pay, you might soon be able to opt for extra time off, instead.

Last week, the House voted to pass the Working Families Flexibility Act, a bill that would allow private-sector employees to trade overtime pay for “compensatory time” off. Democrat critics say employers will use the new legislation to force or otherwise coerce workers into losing overtime money. In fact, though, the new rule would be completely optional, giving hourly workers the same access to paid time off that salaried employees already enjoy.

According to Fair Labor Standards Act signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, hourly employees who work more than 40 hours in a week must receive time-and-a-half for their extra efforts. Under the new bill — which passed 229-197 largely across party lines — eligible employees may choose to bypass receiving immediate overtime pay and elect to bank comp time to use at a future date. If workers change their minds, employers will be required to allow them to “cash out” the overtime pay within 30 days.

Democrat opposition and doomsday scenarios ignore numerous surveys indicating that the nation’s workers favor such flexibility. According to a 2015 survey by jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor, nearly four in five employees would prefer new and additional benefits over a pay increase, with the second-most desired benefit (behind health-care insurance) being vacation or paid time off.

As the Washington Post points out, previous efforts to implement this reform date back to the Newt Gingrich era and have passed the House three times. But all hit the a wall in the Senate. Its prospects appear much brighter this time around. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supported a previous version of the bill in 2013. In addition, the Trump administration also backs the bill, with the White House issuing a statement last week saying the act would “help American workers balance the competing demands of family and work by giving them flexibility to earn paid time off.”

While workers obviously value decent pay, they also seek freedom and flexibility, The Working Families Flexibility Act will give them both. Kudos to the House for moving on this measure. Let’s hope the Senate will do the same.

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