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Christensen v. Harris County

United States Supreme Court
529 U.S. 576 (2000)



Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), government employers are required to offer compensatory time (comp time) to employees who work overtime. The FLSA states that employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ requests to use their accrued comp time. The FLSA also outlines circumstances under which the employers have to compensate employees for accrued comp time. Harris County (defendant) became concerned that it would not be able to afford to compensate all of its employees for their accrued comp time. As a result, Harris County sought to mandate that its employees use their comp time to take time off. Harris County wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) asking if this practice was permitted under the FLSA. The FLSA does not explicitly allow or prohibit employers from requiring that employees use their comp time. DOL staff responded in an opinion letter stating that an employer could compel the use of comp time only if the employee agreed to the practice in advance. Subsequently, Harris County adopted a policy allowing supervisors to mandate that employees approaching a maximum amount of accrued comp time use the time. Christensen and other individuals (plaintiffs) were deputy sheriffs in Harris County who were ordered to use their comp time. The plaintiffs brought suit, claiming that Harris County’s policy violated the FLSA. The district court granted the plaintiffs summary judgment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (Souter, J.)

Dissent (Breyer, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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