The House GOP Just Voted to Change the Rules on Overtime Pay

If you're regularly burning the midnight oil at work, then chances are you're earning time-and-a-half overtime pay. But a new bill passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday could change the way employers compensate employees for overtime.

According to CNN Money, the new bill would allow employers to pay their employees in paid time off rather than cash. Many Republicans have touted the bill as an opportunity to give employees more options in how they receive their overtime pay—even the bill's name, the Working Families Flexibility Act, emphasizes the "options" aspect of the arrangement.

Rep Martha Roby

Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.), the sponsor of the bill, told WSFA that the bill provides employees with more options, saying "It’s voluntary. This is not another government mandate, not more red tape applied to businesses by the government. It’s completely voluntary and guess who’s in the driver’s seat? The employee. It’s up to the employee to determine whether or not they want their overtime pay or they want to accrue their overtime to use later as paid leave. This is about moms and dads that want to coach a soccer game, or have responsibilities to take care of an aging parent, and want to be able to make the same decision that government employees already can."

Wait, so you're working overtime to earn extra time? How does that work?

Much like the common time-and-a-half standard for overtime pay, the overtime hours you work would translate into 1.5 hours off for each hour worked, according to the Huffington Post. Meaning that if you worked six overtime hours in a given day, you'd get nine paid vacation hours, to be used at your discretion. 

So, essentially, it's the same rate of return on your work. Let's say you're paid $10 an hour. If you work six hours of overtime at time-and-a-half rates, you'd be making $90—that's 6 hours times $15 dollars per hour. Or, you could choose to not be paid on the day you work the overtime and instead take 9 hours of extra paid vacation at the $10 an hour wage. Either way, in theory, it's the same $90. 

uUS Capitol Building

So what's the big deal?

While the plan may sound sensible in theory, critics are concerned with how it may work in practice, noting that unscrupulous employers could pressure employees to take the paid leave later instead of the overtime pay. As the Huffington Post noted, "Even though workers ostensibly have a choice between extra time and extra pay, a coercive boss could pressure employees to take the hours rather than the cash. That would amount to an interest-free loan for the employer. What’s more, the boss ultimately controls when the comp time is used. The bill gives employers the leeway to turn down requests to use comp time if it “unduly disrupt[s] the operations of the employer.”

Cubicle Farm

And as Celine McNicholas, a labor lawyer with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute told the Huffington Post, employees having to ask their bosses directly for paid overtime constitutes a reversal of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938—the bill that restricted child labor, established the minimum wage, and required extra pay for overtime. 

Democrats are strongly opposed to the bill. 



The bill now heads to the Senate, where Republicans—assuming all 52 Republican senators are in support—would still need to pick up eight Democratic votes to get to sixty votes—the threshold required to stop a filibuster. Given that it received no Democratic support in the house, the bill seems unlikely to go forward.