Do you feel like doublespeak is on the upswing in the Trump era? I sure do – and here’s yet another prime example: the “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1180/S. 801), introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would in fact harm working families by taking away their hard-earned overtime pay and providing more flexibility…to their bosses. The bill is set to be marked up in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce tomorrow—but it is so fundamentally flawed that I hope Members will reject it out of hand.
The so-called “flexibility” created by the bill allows employers to offer paid time off, rather than time-and-a-half pay, as compensation for eligible hourly employees who work more than 40 hours in a week; in other words, a worker would forego the overtime pay she earns today in exchange for paid time off (“comp time”) in the future. But here’s the (really big!) catch: the boss can deny an employee’s request to actually use the comp time in the future if the timing doesn’t work for the employer. That means the employee can be forced to work extra hours without any immediate benefits AND can be denied the flexibility she needs to attend to personal or family obligations (like caring for a sick child or relative, which can’t exactly be rescheduled to suit an employer’s preference). Workers would find themselves working more hours for less pay, with no guarantee of time off when they need it—a bind that would especially constrain women workers, since they are more likely than men to work in low-wage jobs and also still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities at home.
Here’s an idea: why don’t we make sure working people get the overtime pay they have earned AND get paid time off to manage their lives outside of work? And while we’re at it, maybe we could make sure employers actually take their employees’ needs into account when setting their schedules, and pay them fairly whether they work overtime hours or not? There’s a bill (ok, a few bills) for that! If Congress really wants to help working families, they should:
- Pass the Schedules That Work Act, which gives workers a say in their work schedules and begins to curb the most abusive scheduling practices that threaten working families’ financial security;
- Pass the Healthy Families Act, which makes earned paid sick days available to millions of workers;
- Pass the FAMILY Act, which provides paid family and medical leave, modeled on successful state programs;
- Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which helps close the gender-based wage gap;
- Pass a robust minimum wage increase, and make sure that tipped workers receive the regular minimum wage before tips, to improve economic security for millions of workers and their families; and
- Reject proposed cuts to the budget for the Department of Labor, which would hamper the Department’s ability to enforce overtime protections and other critical wage and hour standards.
Want to make your voice heard? Click here to tell your Representative to oppose the Working Families Flexibility Act and support the policies that actually work for working women and their families.