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California Overtime Workers to be Paid in Cash

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Tulare County, CAPublic health workers can look forward to a little California overtime cash for the holidays, thanks in part to the H1N1 flu crisis. Under normal circumstances, California overtime laws allow public health workers to be issued time in lieu instead of pay for the first 40 hours of overtime worked—a practice illegal in the private sector but permissible under an exemption in California and known as "comp time."

However, according to a story appearing online on Friday in the Visalia Times-Delta, nurses and welfare-eligibility workers will be able to collect cash for all overtime worked until January 30 of next year.

Tulare County in California has been issued grant money to ensure that CalWORKS and H1N1 services remain fully staffed—and as far as the county is concerned, the money will be spent under the assumption that it will be gone by next year.

"We need to make sure that we spend the [grant] money as quickly as possible," said Tim Huntley, Tulare County's director of human resources.

The state of California is hurting financially, and individual counties are feeling the pinch in unique ways. In the case of Tulare County, a $5.2 million deficit has resulted in 200 layoffs in the Health and Human Services Agency this year alone. Meanwhile, workloads have increased, what with the urgent need for H1N1 flu vaccine and the 1700 applications for public assistance each month.

Facilitating the H1N1 inoculation program will require more overtime. The temporary suspension of the comp time provisions, together with the availability of grant money that will be paid in cash to workers for all overtime hours until the end of January 2010, will provide some incentive and motivation, if not a way to ease the strain.

The workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union.

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