Punch out Featured

6:35am EDT July 28, 2003
A bill introduced in the U.S. House in March may ease the burden for 33.7 million two-income households by offering comp time instead of cash for overtime worked.

But some employers say it will increase their burden because workers won't be around when they're needed.

The Family Time Flexibility Act (H.R. 1119), introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), amends The Fair Labor Standards Act, enacted in 1938, which prohibits private sector employers from offering employees the choice of paid time off as compensation for working overtime hours. Public sector employees, by the way, have long enjoyed this flexibility.

"Increasingly, employees want time off instead of overtime," says Merritt Bumpass, partner at Frantz Ward LLP in Cleveland. "That's the theory behind this."

Provisions of the bill, which as of press time was still in committee, include:

* An employee opting to take paid comp time receives paid time off at a rate of one-and-one-half hours of comp time per hour of overtime pay earned. For example, an employee working 48 hours in a week would receive either eight hours of pay at time-and-a-half or twelve hours of paid time off.

* As with cash overtime pay, compensatory time accrues at one-and-one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for each hour worked over 40 in a seven-day period, according to the bill.

* Employees could accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay or "cash out" any accrued, unused compensatory time at the end of each year.

* The employee can always opt for cash for overtime worked.

This bill, if passed in its current form, will most likely have an impact in Northeast Ohio, according to the Smart Business/Employers Resource Council Workplace Practices Survey. Less than half -- 48 percent -- of the 239 Northeast Ohio employers who responded to the survey reported offering flexible time schedules for their employees.

"This is going to increase time away from the job," Bumpass says. "Employers really struggle with things like the Family Medical Leave Act because people are gone. I have on my desk right now plenty of issues with how much time off employees deserve, whether it's under the Family Medical Leave Act or under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Those two pieces of legislation have complicated enormously employers' ability to control how much time an employee is at the job and away from the job." How to reach: Frantz Ward LLP, (216) 515-1660