Friday, August 06, 2004

The Fair Labor Standards Act should not be amended to allow "comp time."

Compensatory time – or comp time – allows employers to offer extra time off to employees for overtime work instead of paying them time-and-a-half.

Why you're right:

1. Flexibility exists in the current system. Any employer can allow an employee to work 50 hours in one week and 30 hours in the next week. There are simply required to pay workers time-and-a-half for the 10 excess hours in the first week. Flex time is really about giving employers the flexibility to avoid paying cash for overtime. (Los Angeles Times)

2. Comp time is an interest free loan to employers. When "comp time" legislation has been introduced in Congress it has allowed employers to defer an employees use of extra vacation time for up to a year. As a result, "comp time" functions as an interest free loan – in the amount of the extra value of the overtime work – from the employee to the employer for the amount of time. (Economic Policy Institute)

3. Employees could be coerced into accepting comp time. In practice "workers would be pressured to accept time off instead of overtime pay" if it met the employers needs. Even if people weren't coerced "employers would channel overtime work to those who were willing to take comp time." (Los Angeles Times)

4. Employees may not have an opportunity to use comp time. In 2000 – when the economy was still booming – over 200,000 companies closed due to business failure. Workers in failed companies that are owed comp time would be out of luck. Other workers might find their professional obligations don't allow them to use all their banked comp time. (Economic Policy Institute)

Why they're wrong:

President Bush and others tout comp time as a solution for working mothers and others trying to balance their professional and personal obligations. But by lowering the marginal cost of overtime it makes long hours more likely. Longer, more irregular hours would make things worse for working mothers and other with demands on their time. (Economic Policy Institute)