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Overtime-Wage Bill Nears Passage

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Washington--A House-Senate conference committee hammered out the final version of a bill late last week that would exempt school districts from the more costly provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Earlier in the week, the House passed a bill that would permit state and local governments to grant compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay, at a rate of not less than one and one-half hours of time off for each hour of overtime worked. The Senate had passed similar legislation the week before.

The compromise legislation limits the number of compensatory hours a school employee can accrue to 240. The House measure, HR 3530,would have limited such hours to 180, while the Senate bill, S 1570, would have allowed 480.

The final bill would also give districts more flexibility in the use of volunteers, and would delay Labor Department enforcement of the act until April of next year. But districts would still be required to pay all em-ployees the $3.35 minimum wage, and, if audited, to document their compliance.

State and local governments, including school districts, have traditionally been exempt from the act. But earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Garcia v. San Antonio Transit Authority that such entities must comply, and that they could be held liable for violations dating back to April 15 of this year.

Experts have said that the court's decision could have serious consequences for school districts, many of which have developed employee practices that do not comply with provisions of the act.

The Labor Department had planned to begin enforcement of the court's decision on Oct. 15, but delayed it until Nov. 1 at the urging of the Congress. According to a spokesman, the department has received more than 500 employee complaints since the court's action, including some from school-district employees.--jrs

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