NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hourly Workers Want Comp Time Option

April 7, 1998

Salaried workers, including federal government employees, have the option of choosing "comp time" -- time off from the job to compensate for overtime already worked. This benefit is unavailable to workers who are paid by the hour because the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 makes it illegal.

Under current law, employers are required to pay overtime if their hourly workers work more than 40 hours per week. But about 65 million salaried public and private workers now have the comp time option, and there is evidence hourly workers would like the same flexibility.

  • For instance, a November 1996 survey by The Polling Company which asked, "How willing are you to give up pay at work in exchange for more personal time?" found more than half of the respondents -- 55 percent -- were willing.
  • Most enthusiastic were workers ages 18 to 29, with 73 percent of women and 68 percent of men in this age group choosing time off.

Observed work patterns suggest women prefer family time to overtime work. Men hold only slightly more than half of all hourly jobs -- 30 million men versus 29 million women -- but they are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to work overtime.

A bill that would give hourly workers freedom of choice in the workplace passed the House last year (H.R. 1), and the Senate will consider similar legislation, known as the Family Friendly Workplace Act (S. 4), this year. Under the proposed legislation, employers could continue to pay hourly workers time-and-a-half for overtime or they could offer them one-and-one-half hours of compensating time off for each hour of overtime.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth (American Enterprise Institute), "Comp Time: Giving Hourly Workers What Money Can't Buy," Brief Analysis No. 260, April 7, 1998, National Center for Policy Analysis, 12770 Coit Rd., Suite 800, Dallas, Texas 75251, (972) 386-6272.


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