Who Does the Working Family Flexibility Act Truly Benefit?
Today, busy employees are striving for a work/life balance. They’re craving flexibility in their jobs that allows them to find the time to spend with family, focus on their goals and take time off to relax if they’re sick. According to US News and World Report, 75 percent of women would choose more free time over more money, and 40 percent would take a pay cut if it meant more flex time.
This summer, Republicans pushed for the Working Family’s Flexibility Act of 2013. According to Republicans, the bill would allow private employees who are nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to save up to 160 hours of earned overtime hours to use for any reason throughout the year. Proponents say that employees could cash out their stored comp time, and businesses will be forbidden from forcing employees to take time off instead of cash.
While it sounds like the Act is giving more control to the American worker and responding to their needs, critics say not so fast. In fact, the Act barely squeaked by the House with a vote of 223 to 204. And both the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama are against the bill as they feel it doesn’t provide the protection to the workers it’s supposed to help.
Why the Act Hurts American Workers
When it comes right down to it, the Act is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employers are required by law to pay nonexempt workers time and a half for every hour worked over the 40-hour workweek. As many of the workers the FLSA protects are low-wage service and healthcare workers, they depend on this compensation to help make ends meet. The Working Family Flexibility Act appears to be one more way companies are trying to get out of paying employees in order to pad their own bottom lines.
Currently, there’s not enough protection in the bill that dictates when someone can take the comp time as it is something you will have to work out informally with your boss. You may want to save up all of your comp time to use in the summer, but if that’s your company’s busy time, your boss can deny your request. There’s also not enough coverage to forbid an employer from coercing an employee to take time off instead of pay – and that issue can have a negative effect on the very flexibility the bill is trying to protect.
Remarked senior business editor at NPR, Marilyn Geewax, “…once you open the door to allowing this kind of flex time, the reality will end up being that your boss kind of pushes you into situations where you end up working 20 hours one week, 60 hours the next week, that your life becomes very erratic and that makes it a lot harder for child care.”
Overall, critics feel the bill is one more way employers can avoid paying their employees what they’ve earned, and it gives, according to FoxNews, “employers an interest-free loan from employees” if workers choose to cash out their comp time at the end of the year.
While flexibility is important to American workers, and the bill is supposed to offer them the choice in how they want to use their overtime, there is simply not enough protection for employees under the Working Family’s Flexibility Act. With the Senate and President Obama both on the opposing side of the bill, overtime workers should still continue to receive the financial compensation they work so hard for.