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Court Says Employers, Not Employees, Control Comp Time

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Public employers can force their hourly workers to take time off to avoid paying them overtime, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The 6-3 ruling leaves it to employers, not workers, to decide when “comp time” is used.

Monday’s decision covers police, firefighters and public hospital workers, as well as the many thousands of other state or local employees who are offered compensatory time off rather than extra pay for their overtime work. Private sector workers are not affected, however.

Until now, some courts had said that those public employees were entitled to use their accumulated comp time whenever they chose to do so. If the comp time goes unused, the employee eventually can receive a cash payment for it.

But the Supreme Court often shields state and local governments from federal authority and Monday’s ruling interprets federal labor law in a way that gives public employers control over how their employees use their comp time.

The issue came before the court in a lawsuit brought by 127 sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston. The deputies challenged their department’s policy of giving bureau commanders the power to decide how and when comp time was used. The commanders were told to keep a lid on how much total comp time was accumulated and they were directed to schedule deputies off duty to reduce their comp time.

Advocate Father Kills Self After Cancer-Stricken Son Dies

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BOSTON

One day after the state House of Representatives voted to set aside $2.5 million per year from an existing health insurance fund to pay for children’s care when no other funding source exists, David Stewart died Friday in his father’s arms at their home on Cape Cod. David was the ginger-haired boy with AML, acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive cancer that is fatal to about 60 percent of its victims. William was the advocate who turned his son’s condition into a cause, a crusade to gain state funding for children with catastrophic illnesses whose families cannot afford treatment.

Hours later, 43-year-old William Stewart took his own life.

A close family friend, Bob Peredna, told reporters, “I don’t think he wanted David to be alone.”

The pair was remembered Monday at a double funeral attended by many of the state legislators who now hope to push the “David Stewart bill” to swift passage in the state Senate.

The measure is modeled after similar legislation in New Jersey, where the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund has operated for more than a decade. During the last fiscal year, the New Jersey program approved more than $5 million in assistance for 231 families. Payments ranged from $250 to $250,000.

The Massachusetts bill, inspired by the Stewart family’s saga, would cover everything from primary care to medical supplies and home health care for children under 18.