There Goes the GOP Again, Trying to Pretend They Like Working Moms

Mary is the only wage-earner in her household. She supports her two children and her elderly mother with her hourly job. Sometimes she has to work overtime. Right now Washington is fighting over how to compensate her for that time.

Hourly workers are currently entitled to overtime pay: they must receive 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for any time they work over 40 hours in a week. A federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, guarantees that right.

Employers have two legal ways to control wage costs, both of which protect employees. One is to spread work around, so fewer people have to work overtime and people working less than full-time get the chance to work 40 hours a week. The other is to hire more people so the employer doesn’t have to make any employees work more than 40 hours in a week.

That was part of the intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act: it creates an incentive for employers to hire more workers, which reduces unemployment, and it creates a disincentive to prevent forcing employees to work too many hours.

Let’s talk dollars and cents. Say I make $10 an hour working for Company, and last week my supervisor required me to work 50 hours. That means Company owes me $15 for each of the extra 10 hours I worked last week: 150 bucks. Nice.

You work for Cheapo Co. across the road. You also worked 50 hours last week at your $10 an hour job. Cheapodoesn’t want to pay 150 bucks, and the Republicans are on their side, what with Cheapo being a job creator and all.

The Republicans have created a proposal to change the Fair Labor Standards Act so that Cheapo doesn’t have to pay you. It’s called the “Working Families Flexibility Act” (WFFA, H.R. 1406 in Congress), and it would giveemployers the choice of compensating employees for overtime either with overtime pay or with comp time.

They are branding WFFA as a gift to working moms, rolling out an ad campaign on mommy blogs promising them more choice in setting their schedule and more freedom to change it for unexpected emergencies, like a child’s sudden illness. Mommies, the Republicans are saying, if you have more time, you can manage that work/life balance problem we keep hearing about.

If only it were that easy. First let’s follow the money: comp time means you don’t get your 150 bucks overtime pay. Instead you get 10 free hours unpaid. If you didn’t have that comp time, you would work those ten hours at $10 per hour and earn $100 on top of the $150 you would get for the overtime. Add it up and you can see that by requiring overtime pay instead of comp time, the current law nets you $250. The Republicans would let Cheapo keep your $250 in its own pocket.

Also, because the comp time is not overtime and therefore is worth only $100, it compensates you less than the overtime pay, which would be $150.

The problems with WFFA go beyond money. It says that a worker gets overtime pay unless she and the boss agree on comp time instead. Do you think the managers at Cheapo, who don’t want to compensate that worker at all, will look kindly on her if they ask her to take comp time and she refuses and insists on overtime pay? I think that she is so out of there. Bye-bye, job.

In reality, scuzzy employers like Cheapo will have the power to force comp time on workers who really need the overtime pay. They will feel free to force those workers to take the comp time when it is convenient for the company; the rosy picture the Republicans paint of a comp time bank that employees can dip into for doctor appointments or any other time they need it is likely to be the unusual arrangement, not the norm.

If I sound overly harsh on employers, it is because I spent years as a lawyer suing them for stealing people’s pay. They just wouldn’t pay for overtime. They would monkey with the hours records and then say that people didn’t work any overtime. They would retaliate against employees who complained, often by firing them.

If Congress really wants to help Mary out with some family flexibility, they should make it up to her alone whether she wants comp time, make it up to her when she takes it, and hire thousands more people in the Department of Labor to make sure the Cheapos out there obey those parts of the law. Otherwise, the WFFA, or H.R. 1406, is a gift to scuzzy employers and one more kick in the teeth for the working class.


Related Stories:

Low-Wage Workers Still Aren’t Covered by Obamacare

The Fastest Growing Job In America Pays Less Than $10 Per Hour

Why Employers Won’t Fire People If We Raise The Minimum Wage To $9


Photo credit: iStockphoto


April Thompson
April Thompson4 years ago

Thanks! I didn't even know about this until now! I will let all my women friends know!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Margaret P is right. My husband is retired from the Dept. of Corrections here in VA. Under a Democrat Governor, they went to comp time instead of overtime pay.

Margaret Paddock
M A Paddock4 years ago

The following was not originally a Republican idea. This was legislated in California back in the late 80's or early 90's. I lost my ability to earn extra dollars as my company went to comp time as it was referred to. I needed the funds has my husband had been injured and out of work. So we had to live with it. We didn't have a choice so we cut out as many extras as possible like pay TV, etc. and stayed home more.
If government democrats are crying foul now reduce the taxes on corporations and enable them to help the workers - duh. You can not expect corporations to be able to foot all the expenses and stay solvent or expand. You can not do it personally and neither can they.

The Republicans have created a proposal to change the Fair Labor Standards Act so that Cheapo doesn’t have to pay you. It’s called the “Working Families Flexibility Act” (WFFA, H.R. 1406 in Congress), and it would give employers the choice of compensating employees for overtime either with overtime pay or with comp time.

Read more:

Stephanie Reap
Stephanie Reap4 years ago

Donna B. you're wrong the GOP cares about themselves!!!!

Luz Nelson
Luz Nelson4 years ago

I work for a big company in management, at the end of the day with this proposal the employer is the one WINNING big. People open your eyes.

Donna B.
Donna B4 years ago

The GOP cares about nobody!! Except themselves. They are greedy bigots.

Christian Gallison

Cherie C. Except @ $10 and hour the taxes are very little. When I worked in a restaurant those extra 10 hour mad a big difference to me every week I could get them. At $10 an hour and 2000 hours a year you make $20,000. the taxes on that, with two kids, used to be negative when you got your EIC at year end. The $100 after taxed is very positive.

Cletus W.
Cletus W.4 years ago

We should all be thankfull that Elaine A. has seen fit to donate so much of her time for the progressive cause and to the [D] campaign committees. Large amounts of money could not have so efficiently portrayed the rightwing malignancy that today's rightwingers represent any better than they do themselves, FOR FREE!!!

Thank you Elaine, for highliting rightwing stupidty to the point of actually using your 1st Amendment rights to prove it to the rest of us.......just as our prescient forefathers ennvisioned.

Ingrid A.

I would say this is the organization skill problem. You must know how to make the work team for your company. Knowledge of psychology would be necessary. I would say some of personal department workers are not rightly selected and don't know nothing about their work. They act like parrots. It should be better regulated.

Cherie C.
Cherie C4 years ago

I can't help but wonder if this "lawyer" herself has been a single Mom. She claims that "Company" pays $150 for overtime. She forgets something-taxes! Does she have a clue as to how much she'd take home? I have been there, you work yourself to death for basically nothing. I burns me up that a lawyer comes across as such an expert, Tell me, where is this "Company" going to get the money for pay? And why do we as women buy into this single Mom thing? I did, and it literally beat me up. My message to women? Be honest with yourself before getting involved with someone. In my Sociology class it showed that married couples fared better. Looking back, I wish that I hadn't taken the path that I did, because to work yourself to death just to get it taxed isn't worth it at all.