The House voted Tuesday to allow private employers to offer comp time or paid time off instead of paying workers overtime.
The 229-197 vote was mostly along party lines, with all Democrats voting against it and six Republicans also opposing the legislation.
The legislation, titled the Working Families Flexibility Act, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow private-sector workers to receive compensatory time off at a rate of at least one and one-half hours for each hour of employment for which overtime compensation is required. The option would become available once the employee has worked 1,000 hours for the employer.
Republicans said that existing laws prohibiting such trade-offs were outdated in the current workplace and unnecessarily limit the types of arrangements workers can make with their employers. "What the American people want — what I heard in my district — is that the American people want the government off their back so they can make their own choices," said Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., a co-sponsor of the legislation.
"The workforce has changed tremendously over the years, but our laws and policies that govern the workplace haven't kept up. Today's working parents need more time flexibility to balance the demands of work and family," said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., author of the legislation.
Democrats countered that the legislation would make it easier for unscrupulous employers to take advantage of workers. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., dubbed it the "More Work, Less Pay Bill" and called it an "effort by the Republicans to roll back workers rights under the guise of doing the opposite."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has introduced the same legislation in the Senate but the chamber has yet to take it up.