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More study is needed on the overtime issue

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" seems to be the approach of Marion County delegates to the West Virginia Legislature. A bill to eliminate mandatory overtime for employees is again under consideration.

Marion County Democrats Mike Caputo, Paul Prunty and A. James Manchin were joined by some residents of Marion and Monongalia counties at a recent House committee hearing on the proposed law, which would permit employees to decline overtime work.

We think legitimate concerns about the practice of requiring overtime work have been raised by the bill's proponents. When both spouses typically work, home and family life can suffer when extended periods of overtime compete with parental or other responsibilities.

Supporters also cite concerns about workplace dangers and potentially serious errors made by an exhausted employee who could not decline overtime work.

Such concerns existed when the 40-hour workweek became the norm. They should not be ignored by the lawmakers when they consider this legislation.

At the same time, we question the "broad brush" applied to the issue. We think the circumstances requiring overtime work are too varied, the needs of employers too diverse, and above all, the demands of today's economic climate too important for an absolute ban on required overtime.

We're keenly aware of the need to protect workers and their families from harm. We think it's possible to protect both workers and the people they serve without putting a straitjacket on employers' needs.

Just as the existing federal family leave law protects employees and their dependents, we suggest that a similar solution can be found that will benefit the needs of both worker and workplace.

The supporters of this bill are partially right. This legislation speaks to an obvious need. Finding a workable answer will be worth the time and effort.

Harry M. Fox

Telegram Editorial Board member

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