Working Families Flexibility Act: A Win for Workers?


To prove that the Congress can get things done, the House of Representatives passes the Working Families Flexibility Act.

Working Families Flexibility Act
U.S. Rep Martha Roby (R-Ala.)

Almost as a challenge to the widespread belief that Congress cannot do anything, news came last week that something in Washington was actually agreed upon — the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.

The bill, as written, will allow private sector employers to offer comp time as a substitute for time and a half overtime pay. It passed  the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 223 to 204.

As Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) says in a statement: “As a working mom, this bill is personal to me. I understand the time demands on working families, including children’s activities, caring for aging parents or even a spouse’s military deployment.

Roby adds that “it only makes sense that our laws governing the workplace catch up to the realities of today’s families.”

The bottom line of the bill is that it makes it legal for private employers to provide workers an alternative:

  • Work extra hours and accumulate time paid time off for use later, rather than paid for it that week.
  • The employee can use the flextime as long as it does not cause undue stress to the work schedule. Also, it cannot be used as vacation days.

Provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 currently restrict companies from offering this choice. It was a safeguard against employers working over 40 hours without paying them overtime.

Human Resources: Free live ovation demoCritics of the Working Families Flexibility Act argue that most workers prefer overtime pay to flex (or comp) time. They claim that flextime is just another way for employers to get extra work from their people without having to pay overtime wages.

Some herald that the “Orwellian” Working Families Flexibility Act is the “end” of the 40-hour workweek.

Today’s workplace is different from even a decade ago. So are employees. In 1985, Congress supported employees getting to choose paid time off in return for working overtime. Employees in the public sector have always had that option.

Now, nearly 30 years later, the House of Representatives is allowing the same right to private-sector employees. If it is good enough for government workers, it should be the same for everyone.

Workers have demands on their time, and the Working Families Flexibility Act helps the law catch up to the realities of today’s employment landscape. Time and a half for overtime worked will not change; it is a hard-earned right. There will also be no change in the 40-hour workweek, or the way overtime pay is calculated. All that remains the same.

What the Working Families Flexibility Act does is give employees additional paid time off when they earn it. That is something, for some workers, certainly more valuable than money.

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