Testimony from a Montgomery, Alabama worker and human resource professionals illustrated the practical benefits of U.S. Representative Martha Roby's Working Families Flexibility Act, which was the subject of a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill today.
Rep. Roby's bill would allow private-sector workers to arrange with their employer to receive paid time off, or "comp time," for overtime hours worked if they so chose. The "comp time" option has been legal and commonly used in the public sector since 1985, but remains restricted by federal law for private businesses and their employees.
"I have friends who work for the state and I knew they talked about comp time," said Karen DeLoach, a bookkeeper at a Montgomery, Alabama accounting firm who testified in support of the Working Families Flexibility Act today. DeLoach described how she approached her boss seeking "comp time" so she could participate in her church's mission work, only to learn federal law forbid such an arrangement.
"I thought it would be nice to do something like that, having no idea it would be illegal," she said.
"Right now, committee members, you have the ability to empower families across the nation with the freedom of choice. You could afford me the freedom to choose to use my overtime as leave time, while my coworker can still choose overtime pay," DeLoach concluded in her testimony.
Ensuring such parity between the public and private sectors is only fair, Rep. Roby said. In doing so, Congress could offer working Americans more flexibility and more time to take care of family responsibilities, if that's what they want.
"Talk to just about any working mom and dad and they'll tell you they need more time. They need one more hour in the day to be able to take care of responsibilities outside of work," Rep. Roby said. "We can't legislate another hour in the day. But, we can help working people better balance the demands of family and work by removing an unnecessary federal restriction on utilizing comp time in the private sector."
Also offering testimony today were Juanita Phillips, Human Resources Manager at Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, and Andy Brantley, President and CEO of the College and University Professional Association of Human Resources. Each testified based on personal experience about how comp time plans commonly utilized by government workers could benefit employees in the private sector as well.
The Working Families Flexibility Act:
Allows employers to offer employees a choice between cash wages and comp time for overtime hours worked. Employees who want to receive cash wages would continue to do so.
Protects employees by requiring the employer and the employee to complete a written agreement to use comp time, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee.
Retains all existing employee protections in current law, including the 40 hour work week and how overtime compensation is accrued. The bill adds additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary.
Allows employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay cash wages for any unused time at the end of the year. Workers are free to "cash out' their accrued comp time whenever they choose to do so.