Private-Sector Comp Time Bill Passes House

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 3, 2017

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off instead of cash for overtime hours.

H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, passed 229-197 on a mostly party-line vote, with six Republicans and all Democrats voting against it.

The House has passed similar legislation in years past, only to see it die in the Senate. This newest bill will meet the same fate unless Republicans can find at least eight Democrats to cross party lines to form a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

The Senate counterpart bill, S. 801, has been referred to the Senate's labor committee. However, no hearings or votes have been scheduled yet.

Should it pass both chambers, the White House would sign the bill into law.

Under the bill, an employer could offer comp time instead of cash overtime only if a labor union agrees to it under a collective bargaining agreement or if employees knowingly and voluntarily sign a written agreement and that agreement is not a condition of employment. Employees could withdraw their agreement at any time.

Employees would have to work for their employer at least 1,000 hours during a period of continuous employment in the 12-month period before the date of agreement or receipt of compensatory time off. Comp time would be maxed out at 160 hours.

Each year, employers would be required to pay out any unused comp time left over at the end of the year no later than the following January 31. Also, employers would have to pay out any unused comp time within 30 days of a written request by an employee, or when an employee is terminated (whether voluntarily or involuntarily).

Once an employee requests to use accrued comp time, employers would need to provide time off within a "reasonable period" as long as it does not "unduly disrupt" their operations. These terms are not defined in the legislation, but there is a robust body of case law interpreting them in the context of the FLSA's already-existing public-sector comp time provisions.

An employer that violates the comp time provisions would be liable for double the amount of overtime otherwise owed.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) supports the bill, saying that "employers are increasingly interested in offering workplace flexibility options to help employees address their work-life needs."