We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” It couldn’t be more spot on than when you’re a private sector employee working overtime — for them, overtime is only money.
But did you know that public sector employees also have the option of receiving comp time when they work overtime?
Soon, this great benefit may become available to private sector employees as well!
Is offering comp time to private sector employees currently legal in Washington?
Yes and no! (But mostly no.)
Currently, comp time is legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for federal and public sector employees only.
Washington state law does allows comp time if an employee requests it (the state says it is “considered a benefit to the employee”), but federal law trumps state law — meaning this privilege is still limited only to public employees in our state.
The Working Families Flexibility Act would expand access to comp time benefits:
As any working individual knows, especially those with families, time can be a very precious commodity and workplace flexibility is a top concern. Having the ability to utilize comp time in order to spend more time with family or take care of personal needs can help restore work-life balance and lower employee stress.
In April, a bill was introduced in Congress to modify the FLSA to allow private sector employers the option of providing comp time for their hourly employees.
- This would be voluntary on the part of the employer, and could even be tailored to particular departments or categories of workers.
- It would also be voluntary on the part of the employee, as they could choose whether or not to take their overtime as pay or as comp time.
- If they choose to take comp time, it would be accrued at the rate of 1.5 times for each hour worked over 40 hours within the work week.
Sources close to the legislation expect that the bill will cap the accrual at 160 hours of comp time per year and allow the employer or the employee to cash out the comp time within specific periods of time. In a unionized environment, it would have to become part of the collective bargaining agreement.
This legislation has been introduced in the past, most recently by Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and has stalled quickly. It’s hoped that this time, with widespread support by businesses throughout the country, that it will achieve success.
It would provide private sector employees with the same flexibility that public-sector workers now enjoy. It protects both business and employee concerns by making it an optional choice. And it supports the diverse needs of American families for flexibility.
Watch for news about introduction of this legislation in the next few weeks!