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In an opinion that affects how governments pay overtime, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a suit filed by sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, that a public employer can tell its employees when to take comp time. In Edward Christensen, et al. v. Harris County, et al., the high court ruled May 1 that nothing in the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits an employer from compelling employees to take comp time. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, with justices David Souter and Antonin Scalia writing separate concurrences. Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer wrote separate dissents, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Harris County Attorney Michael Fleming, who argued the case, says the ruling will allow governments to better plan their budgets. “If there’s some reason for a number of the officers to work overtime during the year, such as a natural disaster or something else, they’re not going to exceed their budgets,” Fleming says.

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