Roby Speaks as House Passes Her Working Families Flexibility Act
U.S. Representative Martha Roby today spoke from the House floor as the House debated her bill, the Working Families Flexibility Act. The bill aims to give working Americans more choice and flexibility in the work place by removing an outdated federal restriction on the use of "comp time” in the private sector.
Roby offered her perspective as a working mother and said the changing dynamics of the workforce demand Congress update its laws governing the workforce.
"As a working mom myself, I understand all too well how challenging it can be to balance career and family. Ask any working parent and they’ll tell you how precious their time is. They’ll tell you they just need one more hour in the day to be able to take care of family responsibilities,” Roby said, “I always say Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees use their time. That’s why I am proud to bring to the floor H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act.”
The full text of Roby’s remarks as prepared is below.
I thank the gentlewoman, and Mr. Speaker let me say how grateful I am for the leadership of Chairwoman Foxx at the Education and Workforce Committee. She and her staff have been instrumental in advancing this bill.
I also want to thank my friend Bradley Byrne, who serves as the Workforce Protections Chair on the Committee. He has been a champion for commonsense policies in the work place, and I appreciate his hard work.
Mr. Speaker, today’s workforce is more diverse than ever, especially as it concerns working parents. More than 70 percent of mothers today work outside the home. Fifty years ago, that number was less than 30 percent. But while workforce has changed quite a bit, but our laws and policies that govern the workplace haven’t.
As a working mom myself, I understand all too well how challenging it can be to balance career and family. Ask any working parent and they’ll tell you how precious their time is. They’ll tell you they just need one more hour in the day to be able to take care of family responsibilities.
I always say Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees use their time.
That’s why I am proud to bring to the floor H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act.
Mr. Speaker, this bill does three important things:
It removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of “comp time” in the private sector;
It provides flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to spend taking care of family responsibilities; and
It demonstrates how applying commonsense, conservative principles can help working Americans in their everyday lives.
Here’s how it works: an hourly-wage employee would be able to voluntarily enter into an agreement with their employer to put a portion of their accrued overtime toward paid time off instead of extra cash.
An employee could simply use the “time and a half” overtime he has earned to take a paid hour and a half off work instead of extra money, if that’s what they wanted.
Ask yourself: should a working dad be forced to use up all of his vacation time in order to get involved in his child’s school?
Should a military mom with her husband deployed have to dip into her sick leave to make sure her kids have the support they need?
Should someone with aging parents who require extra care have no option allowing them to devote more time and attention to their loved one when they need it most?
Under the Working Families Flexibility Act, those working moms and dads could have the option of using their accrued overtime toward paid time off, allowing them to take care of family responsibilities without losing the pay check they count on.
Mr. Speaker, for anyone that works in the public sector, this comp time system probably sounds familiar. That’s because since 1985, government employees have had access to comp time benefits.
Why should the rules be different? If it’s good enough for government employees, why isn’t is good enough for the private sector?
H.R. 1180 fixes this disparity by allowing for greater choice and fairness over how workers use their time.
I’ve sponsored this bill for three straight Congresses now, so I’m well aware of the criticism from labor unions and their allies. They try to say that this bill is somehow anti-union or anti-worker. This is simply untrue.
Of course, the truth is many from big labor will reflexively attack any proposal that would change a single word of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Ironically, labor unions themselves can and often do negotiate similar agreements for their members already.
But, I want to address a few criticisms head on so that we are absolutely clear about what this bill does and what it doesn’t do.
Mr. Speaker, critics of this bill will tell you that it will somehow result in employees working longer hours for less pay. But, that’s not true.
Under this bill, the decision to receive comp time is completely voluntary. An employee who prefers to receive cash payment for overtime hours worked is always free to do so.
Workers can withdraw from a comp time agreement whenever they choose. An employee who changes his or her mind will receive cash wages at the overtime rate of time-and-a-half for accrued comp time within 30 days.
All existing protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act are maintained, including the 40-hour work week and how overtime compensation is accrued.
Critics of this bill will also tell you it will allow employers to control when workers take their comp time. But that’s not true.
It is up to the employee to decide when to use his or her comp time, as long as he or she provides reasonable notice and the requested time off does is not overly disruptive — the same standard used for public-sector workers.
Finally, critics will say this bill will allow employers to force or coerce employees into taking comp time. But, that’s not true.
My bill actually strengthens protections for workers and increases penalties for abuse. It contains strong anti-coercion provisions that would prohibit an employer from directly or indirectly trying to intimidate or coerce workers. Employers found to have coerced employees would be liable to the employees for double damages.
And of course, all existing enforcement remedies — including action by the U.S. Department of Labor — are available to workers if an employer fails to pay cash wages for overtime hours or unreasonably refuses to allow workers to use accrued comp time.
Mr. Speaker, the Working Families Flexibility Act won’t fix Obamacare or simplify the tax code. I’m proud of our ongoing efforts to tackle those big problems in Congress.
But that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can right now to help make life a little easier for working moms and dads. The Working Families Flexibility Act does that by helping Americans better balance the demands of family and work.
I want to thank Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy for supporting this bill and allowing it to advance.
I also want to thank our Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers, who carried this bill before me and is a fearless advocate for families.
And, I want to thank the White House for issuing a statement of support this afternoon. After multiple veto threats from the previous administration in years’ past, it is refreshing to be working with the White House to advance this bill.
I thank my colleagues for their consideration, and I urge them to vote to pass the Working Families Flexibility Act.