House Republicans Vote to Effectively End the 40-Hour Work Week

Jonathan Cohn
2 min readMay 3, 2017


While Paul Ryan might be scrambling to keep his caucus together for the latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he didn’t have much difficulty holding them together today to vote to effectively end the 40-hour work week.

I’m almost surprised they didn’t do this on May Day.

The Orwellian-titled Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 would take away workers’ right to overtime pay and instead authorize employers to provide comp time to private sector employees at a rate of 1.5 hours per hour of overtime work. The bill would require employers to provide monetary compensation for any unused time at the end of the year — but with a cap at 160 hours.

The bill, however, provides no guaranteed right to use such comp time. Employers are only obligated to allow employees “to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” “Unduly disruption” is ambiguous and subject to interpretation — the employer’s interpretation. And the bill provides no guarantee that a worker will be compensated in the event that the business shuts down or goes bankrupt.

The House Minority Whip’s Office explains the implications further:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) implemented the 40 hour workweek to allow workers time to be with their families and create a need for more workers for larger workloads. When workers earn overtime, they receive compensation during the pay period in which they have worked beyond 40 hours. This bill would effectively put an end to the 40 hour work week without any guarantee of proper compensation for extra time worked, and would strip employees of the flexibility to meet workplace and family needs.

The FLSA already allows employers to let their employees earn paid time off. However, under this bill, employers can take all of those wages earned above 40 hours and put them towards future time off controlled by the employer. Employees would not get paid for the overtime work they perform during the current pay period. Instead, they would receive time off later; if that time is unused, they would be paid back at the end of the year. This amounts to a no-interest loan to employers from workers and would encourage employers to demand longer hours because they would receive the benefits of overtime work at no additional cost.

(emphasis added)

The bill passed 229 to 197.

Only 6 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), David Joyce (OH-14), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02), Tom MacArthur (NJ-03), Pat Meehan (PA-07), and Chris Smith (NJ-04).

When the bill was voted on in 2013, 3 Democrats — including current members Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Collin Peterson (MN-07) — voted for it. 8 Republicans voted against it. David Young (AK) who voted against it in 2013 now joined his Republican colleagues in voting for it.



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.