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Overtime pay is at stake in federal legislation

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act has long required Maryland employers to pay hourly employees overtime rates for hours worked in excess of 40 in a given week. This federal employment right could soon change, however, as a controversial bill continues to make its way through Congress. The Working Families Flexibility Act would allow workers to exchange their overtime pay for paid time off.

Under the FLSA, workers must be paid time-and-a-half their regular rate of pay for overtime hours. Since 1985, government workers have been able to take comp time instead of the overtime pay, and now this bill that has just been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would allow private sector workers to do the same.

Proponents of the bill say that the measure is family-friendly, allowing working parents more flexibility over their schedules. Presumably, working parents would be able to bank overtime hours when they have the time for it, and then trade those hours in for time off when they need it.

Opponents of the bill argue that employers are motivated by profits to push comp time over overtime, and that workers could end up being cheated out of the compensation entirely because they will not be guaranteed that they can take the time off when they would like to do so.

Opponents also worry that employers would abuse the practice by not offering overtime hours to those who want to be compensated in wages rather than time.

If the bill does pass into law, employees will be able to opt in to either paid overtime or compensatory time. The time would accrue at the same rate that overtime is paid--time-and-a-half.

Employees would also be able to change their minds at any time and receive the cash wages.

The future of this bill is unknown. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is currently seeking a Senate co-sponsor to get behind similar legislation in the Senate. The Obama administration has voiced opposition.

What do Maryland residents think? Would you like to have the option to take comp time instead of overtime pay? Or, do you think your employer would abuse this?

Source: Richmond Times Dispatch, "House passes Cantor-backed measure on comp time," Olympia Meola, May 9, 2013

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