John Paul Stevens on Jobs
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Ford 1975)
Petitioner Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. formulates chemicals for household products. In May 1988, Hoffman hired Jose Castro. Castro presented documents that appeared to verify his authorization to work in the US. In Dec. 1988, the AFL-CIO began a union-organizing campaign at Hoffman. Castro and several other employees supported the organizing campaign. In Jan. 1989, Hoffman laid off Castro and other employees engaged in these organizing activities.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) permits States and their political subdivisions to compensate their employees for overtime work by granting them compensatory time in lieu of cash payment. If the employees do not use their accumulated compensatory time, the employer must pay cash compensation under certain circumstances. Fearing the consequences of having to pay for accrued compensatory time, Harris County adopted a policy requiring its employees to schedule time off in order to reduce the amount of accrued time. Petitioner Christensen sued, claiming that the FLSA does not permit an employer to compel an employee to use compensatory time in the absence of an agreement.
Employers retain the ability to “cash out” of accrued leave at any time. That simple step is, after all, the method that the Department of Labor years ago suggested the county should pursue here, and that would achieve precisely the outcome the county has all along claimed it wants. I respectfully dissent.
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