Bill Seeks to Improve Workplace Flexibility

Jan 22, 2015 Issues: Federal Regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Seeking to help working Americans better balance the demands of career and family, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) and U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act.

The bill would allow private sector employees the option of using their overtime toward compensatory time, or paid time off, a benefit public sector workers already enjoy.

“To working moms and dads, time is often the most valuable commodity,” Rep. Roby said. “Working Americans need more time to be able to take care of family responsibilities, but right now federal law doesn’t allow the use of compensatory time in the private sector. Our bill changes that, offering workers more flexibility with their time at work and better balance with the demands of family.”

Rep. Roby’s bill passed the House in the 113th Congress. A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) but was blocked in the gridlocked Democratic Majority. Sen. Lee today re-introduced the Senate version with broad support from fellow Senators including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

For many families, especially with young children, their most precious commodity is time,” Sen. Lee said. “But today, federal labor laws restrict the way moms and dads and everyone else can use their time. For decades, Congress has given a special exemption from these laws to government employees. This is unacceptable. The same work-life options available to government employees should be available to private-sector workers, as well.”

The Working Families Flexibility Act would allow private sector workers to receive paid time off, or “comp time,” for overtime hours worked. A working mom or dad could use an hour of overtime he or she earned as paid “time and a half” off work instead of “time and a half” cash, if that’s what they would rather have. A 1985 revision to the Fair Labor Standards Act allowed such arrangements for government employees, but not those in the private sector. 

Under the bill, no worker could be forced to take paid time off, just like no business owner would be forced to offer it. The bill retains all existing worker protections in current law, including the 40-hour work week and collective bargaining rules. The bill provides additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary.

The bill will likely be referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) said it would be a priority. 

“As the nature of the workplace changes, we need to remove roadblocks that put an unnecessary strain on so many working families. Allowing moms and dads the voluntary option to receive paid time off for working overtime will provide them with flexibility to find the best work-life balance to meet their family’s needs,” Rep. Walberg said.

Rep. Roby noted that President Obama mentioned the need to improve workplace flexibility for hourly wage earners in his State of the Union Address Tuesday night.

“We couldn’t agree more that workers need more flexibility,” she said. “The president has the right goal, but we have a more realistic approach by offering workers more choices through ‘comp time.’ As we saw with ObamaCare, slapping federal mandates on the workplace can have serious unintended consequences. Workers have seen their hours reduced thanks to this Administration’s previous attempts to dictate how the workplace operates. 

“We need to get Washington out of the way for how people use their time.”