March 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Comp Time Bill Heads To House Law Allowing Time Off Instead Of Overtime May Face Veto

Associated Press

The House Education Committee, over Democratic objections and the threat of a presidential veto, approved a bill Wednesday that would make it easier for wage earners to choose extra time off instead of overtime pay.

The panel, by a party-line 23-17 vote, sent the bill to the House for consideration. It is a key part of the Republican legislative agenda.

The legislation, expected to go to the House floor the week after next, has met strong opposition from Democrats and union leaders, who say it doesn’t provide workers adequate protection from employers who might try to force them to take time off rather than overtime pay.

Acting Secretary of Labor Cynthia Metzler said in a statement last week that Clinton would veto the bill in its present form because “workers, not employers, must be able to decide how best to meet the current needs of their family.”

Republicans said the White House concerns were unfounded, because the measure prohibits employers from coercing employees into taking compensatory time off, or comp time, instead of overtime pay.

“Employees have to voluntarily enter into any comp time agreement; employees who want to continue to receive cash wages for their overtime could do so,” said Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., an author of the bill.

The legislation amends a 1938 law to allow workers to choose to take up to 30 paid days off each year instead of overtime. It also gives employers the right not to offer comp time.

Currently, wage workers must take a furlough or forfeit overtime earnings if they want to miss work.

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