Public employers not only have the leeway to offer comp time to nonexempt workers, they can now force the workers to use it.
Congress gave state and local governments the authority in 1985 to grant comp time for overtime, but it also capped the number of hours an employee may accrue before the employer has to fork over cash. (Depending on the type of job, the cap is either 240 or 480 hours.)
Fearful about the amount of overtime deputy sheriffs were racking up, Harris County, Texas, started a policy of allowing a supervisor to order an employee to use comp time when too much had accumulated.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nothing in the Fair Labor Standards Act bars employers from compelling workers to use their comp time. (Christensen v. Harris County, No. 98-1167, U.S. Sup. Ct., 2000)