New bill could fundamentally change overtime laws

Posted at 7:37 PM, May 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-09 19:38:45-04

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -- A bill making its way through Congress could fundamentally change overtime laws in the United States.

Presently, anytime an hourly worker clocks in over 40 hours a week, that worker is entitled to time and a half. However HR 1406 "The Working Family Flexibility Act" would give workers a choice. They could take the overtime pay or have the opportunity to take a comp day.

Proponents, like Rep. Eric Cantor (R), argue that option has been available for federal employees for years and that the option should be made available to private sector employees.

Nicole Lambert, owner of the Rainbow Station preschool in Glen Allen, Virginia, is a major supporter of the change.

She says most of her employees share her sentiment that "there is no overtime pay, no paycheck, no tax return that could give me back those moments that I missed with my daughter."

Lambert emphasized that hourly workers could chose whether they want the overtime pay or the comp time and that sometimes high stressed jobs require additional days off.

"There is not a lot of time left for them to do something for themselves, like go get a pedicure," Lambert said.

But not everyone is sharing in Lambert's optimism.

Holly Murray is an hourly employee at Murphies gift shop in Richmond.

"When we do get overtime it is a real treat," Murray said.

Murray fears that while bosses cannot force people to take the comp time, they will strongly encourage it.

"I could see how this would benefit somebody who is trying to split time between work and family but I'm career oriented I need to work and I need to make money," Murray said.

Murray is also concerned that if hourly workers chose comp time, productivity at stores will suffer.

"We need people here, we do not need people at home," Murray said.

While Republicans in the House passed the bill this week, Democrats have expressed concern with it. President Obama has threatened to veto it.

Democrats major concerns include the fact employers still have to approve which day you take off, reserving the right to decline your request.

If a boss repeatedly does this, they are required to pay the employee the overtime money. However Democrats say that money would be paid back interest free which would equate to an interest free loan employees would give their employers.

Here is a statement from Rep. Eric Cantor's Office:

"For years federal government workers have been permitted to take comp time instead of overtime pay. This has allowed them to spend more time with their family, attend their children’s activities, or help tend to a sick relative, instead of taking money for overtime. However, companies in the private sector have been prohibited from offering employees the same alternative. Congressman Cantor is working to change that law."

Here is a statement from the Democratic Party of Virginia:

"In Washington, Congressman Cantor and Congressman Rigell are putting their broken, dysfunctional agenda ahead of the middle class families of Virginia. This bill is misleading and will slash the flexibility and wages that working families rely on.  Congressman Cantor and Congressman Rigell may say one thing in Commonwealth, but when Congressmen Rigell and Cantor do the opposite in Washington, Virginia’s middle class families  just can’t trust Congressmen Rigell and Cantor."