Do Texas residents prefer paid time off or overtime?

Here in Houston and throughout the country, non-exempt workers must be paid time-and-a-half their regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 in one week. This is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which has been a very important employment law in this country since it was enacted in 1938. A bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Wednesday aims to change that.

The Working Families Flexibility Act would allow employees to choose to cash in their overtime hours for paid time off instead of wages. The hours would accrue in the same way overtime wages do--time-and-a-half for every hour over 40--and workers would have the option to select comp time or go with the traditional overtime pay.

While this sounds like it would offer a nice option to employees here in Texas, the bill has its critics. Opponents of the bill say that it provides flexibility to employers, not employees. They worry that employers, motivated by profits, might decline to offer overtime to those workers who pick wages over comp time. Additionally, opponents argue that workers should be able to have paid time off without working over 40 hours to earn it.

They also point to the history of the FLSA, a law that was meant to keep workers from being exploited and to discourage employers from making people work more than 40 hours.

The Obama administration has said it would veto the bill and it is unclear whether there is much support for such legislation in the Senate.

The bill's supporters, however, argue that it offers flexibility to working moms and dads, who can put in extra hours when their schedules allow for it and then use their PTO accrual to take time off to spend with their children.

The future of this legislation remains to be seen. This should be a reminder to Houston residents that things like wages, overtime and vacation hours are subject to federal and state laws. If you have concerns about your rights to wages or benefits, it might be wise to talk with an employment law attorney.

Source: CBS News, "House passes GOP measure to offer PTO alternative to overtime pay," Nancy Cordes, May 8, 2013

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