Massachusetts businesses are subject to both state and federal overtime laws requiring most hourly employees be paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for all work over 40 hours in a given week.
Our Boston employment attorneys know that as of right now, businesses aren’t allowed to swap time off in exchange for overtime pay, sometimes referred to as “flex-time.”
That could soon change.
Republican lawmakers are proposing that workers who toll more than 40 hours in a week be given the option of taking time off instead of receiving overtime pay.
This is an option that is already available to public sector employees. In fact, a lot of state and federal workers can even bank their time off to use weeks or even months later.
New proposals being considered by Congress would extend this kind of option to businesses and employees who are privately employed. Lawmakers suggest that to do so would allow greater flexibility both at work and at home, which is a great benefit to employees as well as companies.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., was quoted as saying that for some employees, having time is more valuable than having extra money. This option is a benefit, she said, that should be extended to all workers – not just those who work for the government.
The move is part of a larger political push to gain more working class family support for the conservative right. The House will likely vote on the measure soon, but it’s not clear whether it will gain much traction in the Senate, which is controlled largely by Democrats, many of whom see this as nothing more than a ploy to skirt fair wage laws.
The measure is staunchly opposed by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and the White House, which threatened a veto.
Part of the problem, they say, is that there are not enough assurances in the bill that the worker would be given the option as opposed to being forced to take the time off instead of receiving more pay. Employers would have the upper hand in pressuring employees to take one over the other.
Those in opposition also note that the reason why flex time exists for government workers has nothing to do with worker flexibility, but rather is because of a program established back in the mid-1980s to try to save the government money. What’s more, many government workers have the benefit of a union, which provides a great deal more leverage in bargaining those types of issues. Unions in the private sector, they point out, are all but dead, with less than 7 percent of employees having union representation.
Some workers have voiced concerns that when there is an option on the table that allows companies to pocket more money, they will of course steer workers in that direction. Essentially, a flex-time option ends up being an “interest-free loan from workers,” say some.
However, other employees have said they would welcome an alternative.
Similar proposals have been made by the GOP and business advocates since the early 1990s, but have failed to pass.
The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.
GOP seeks alternative to overtime pay, May 6, 2013, By Sam Hananel, Associated Press
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