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    This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.

98-1167 on Feb 23, 2000

Decided May 1, 2000
Case Ruling: CHRISTENSEN v. HARRIS COUNTY
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.

Held:

(Thomas, joined by Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter, and in part by Scalia)
Nothing in the FLSA or its implementing regulations prohibits a public employer from compelling the use of compensatory time. [Government agencies can require their employees to take extra time off instead of seeking overtime pay. The justices voted 6-3 that public agencies can control when compensatory time is used, unless there is a pre-existing labor agreement.]

Dissent:

(Stevens, joined by Ginsburg and Breyer)
In my judgment, the fact that no employer may lawfully make any use of “comp time” without a prior agreement with the affected employees is of critical importance. Because employees’ consent is a condition without which the employer cannot qualify for the exception from the general rule, it seems clear to me that their agreement must encompass the way in which the compensatory time may be used.

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.


  • Topic: Jobs
  • Headline: Public agencies can make unilateral rules for comp time
  • Headline 2: Employers must get employee agreement for comp time rules

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Democrats participating in 98-1167

Stephen Breyer j2dUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg j2dUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 



Republicans participating in 98-1167

Anthony Kennedy j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Sandra Day O`Connor j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2005) 
William Rehnquist j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (until 2005) 
Antonin Scalia j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
David Souter j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2009) 
John Paul Stevens w2dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2010) 
Clarence Thomas w1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 



Independents participating in 98-1167



Total recorded by OnTheIssues:

Democrats: 2
Republicans: 7
Independents: 0


















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