Every working parent has gotten that phone call at work, the one that seems to come at the worst time. Your son or daughter is sick at school and needs to be picked up, or an accident has happened and one of your family members is in the emergency room. For many working moms and dads, this means they must forfeit their pay or use valuable vacation time to take care of their family. For the last 30 years public sector employees have had another option, they’ve been allowed to use earned compensation (comp) time instead of vacation time and still get paid. Did you know that it is currently illegal for the private sector to even offer their employees the same opportunity to earn and use comp time? Well it is, and last week in the House of Representatives I was proud to vote to change this law. The Working Families Flexibility Act would allow workers to earn paid comp time instead of paid overtime, and they can use it for any purpose they want, including family emergencies like a sick child.
Now, some in the labor community have raised legitimate concerns about this legislation. They are concerned that, without safeguards, management will force workers to take comp time instead of taking overtime pay. Furthermore, they argue that once they have earned the comp time and that dreaded phone call comes from their child’s school, that their supervisors won’t let them use the comp time they have earned.
Got assurances from labor
I, too, was concerned about this. That’s why I sought the counsel of some of our nation’s labor leaders prior to deciding my vote, and some of them expressed their support. So, I want to clear the air on some of the misconceptions about this legislation, and I want to address my labor friends’ concerns. Because, while these concerns are legitimate, they are adequately addressed in the legislation I voted for and are actually embodied in current law.
First and foremost, the Working Families Flexibility Act would not replace or override any current or future Collective Bargaining Agreement. If a United Steel Workers local, for example, didn’t want comp time as an option in their contract, it wouldn’t be. End of Story.
Also, let’s assume, for example, that the local USW decides to go forward with including comp time in their CBA. Once this happens, each individual worker is still protected, because each individual worker still gets to decide if they want to earn overtime pay or comp time.
And, if workers are forced into taking comp time against their will, or if they are stopped from taking comp time once they have earned it, under the law they have at least two ways to remedy the situation. First, if management is breaking the law and forcing people to take comp time or not allowing workers to use their earned comp time, they can bring a case to the National Labor Relations Board. Second, if a worker decides, after they elect to take comp time, that they want the overtime pay instead, management has to pay the employees their overtime pay within 30 days of receiving notice.
The Working Families Flexibility Act is the first in a series of measures that the Republican-led House of Representatives will consider this summer to ensure that hard working families (both union and non-union) in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio have the tools they need to meet the demands of their job responsibilities at work and raise a family at the same time.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, a Republican, represent’s Ohio’s 6th Congressional District.