A war on overtime pay?

cantorThe word in the liberal press is that Eric Cantor wants to eliminate overtime for hourly workers in the private sector.

This comes from a February 5, 2013 speech at the American Enterprise Institute “outlining a number of major policy initiatives designed to ‘Make Life Work’ for more people.” The pertinent portion is as follows:

Federal laws dating back to the 1930s make it harder for parents who hold hourly jobs to balance the demands of work and home. An hourly employee cannot convert previous overtime into future comp-time or flex-time. In 1985, Congress passed a law that gave state and municipal employees this flexibility, but today still denies that same privilege to the entire private sector. That’s not right.

There’s a police officer at home in my district, her name is Vicki. She is working a tough job, with long hours, while raising her children. Her life is made a little easier because as a local government employee, she is permitted to work some extra hours and save it up for a sick day or a school event.

Imagine if we simply chose to give all employees and employers this option. A working mom could work overtime this month and use it as time off next month without having to worry about whether she’ll be able to take home enough money to pay the rent. This is the kind of common sense legislation that should be non-controversial and moves us in the right direction to help make life work for families.

To be honest, on this reading, I see nothing really wrong with the concept, but as has been pointed out, there is not bill on the table to actually see what is in the bill, but if the past is any indication, then the 2003 Family Time Flexibility, which requires the employer to permit use of comp-time accrued under such an option program within a reasonable time after the employee’s request if such use does not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.

Yes, this is a reasonable implementation of the rule because disruption of the business is detrimental to all, including the employee, but it does put the employee at risk.  If the company fails or files bankruptcy, before the time is used, the employee is damaged. Or if the employee just simply will not allow the time off because she is a total jerk, then what recourse does the employee have?  File a lawsuit? Try that and see what happens to your job.

This is the reason the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938—which requires employers to pay overtime currently—exists.  There are —if you can believe it—certain employers without any sense of decency.

So, while I can understand Cantor’s stated sentiment, the implementation of such a bill is scary. It leaves too much discretion with employers regarding fair pay.

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