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Choice, Fairness in Workplace Flexibility

Choice, fairness in workplace flexibility

By Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)

While there are many hot topics currently in the forefront of American politics, one priority from last year’s campaign continues to warrant Congress’ attention: improving flexibility in the workplace. It may not get the same fanfare as other issues that dominate the news cycle, but work-life balance is a real issue affecting millions of hardworking moms and dads.

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. 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 valuable time flexibility in the workplace can be.

The workforce has changed tremendously, but our laws and policies that govern the workplace haven’t. 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’ve introduced H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would provide greater choice and flexibility in the workplace by removing an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of compensatory time, or “comp time,” in the private sector.  Here’s how it works: an hourly-wage employee would be able to voluntarily enter into an agreement with their employer to put all or some of their accrued overtime toward paid time off instead of cash wages. A working dad could use the “time and a half” overtime he has earned to take a paid hour and a half off work.

No employee could ever be forced to take paid time off, just like no business would be forced to offer this benefit. The same worker protections that have been part of labor law for decades would remain, but for some workers and some businesses this can be a valuable option to include in a benefits package.

Think about the parents of young children, those caring for elderly parents, or military families with one of the parents deployed. They need more time to be able to take care of personal responsibilities, and a comp time agreement could provide it.

If you work in the public sector, you’re probably familiar with this comp time system because it is a legal and widely used benefit for government employees.

Some background: Since 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has dictated how the workplace operates, including how wages are paid. That law mandates that all overtime be paid in cash wages.

In 1985, Congress enacted a revision to the FLSA that allows public sector employers to offer comp time for overtime, meaning if you work for the government you are free to enter into a comp time arrangement and use your overtime how you want. Offering this flexible benefit still remains illegal in the private sector.

Why should the rules be different? Why shouldn’t private sector employees have access to the same comp time benefits that government employees enjoy? The Working Families Flexibility Act fixes this disparity by allowing for greater choice and fairness over how workers use their time.

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