The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1406) yesterday, which would amend the country's 75-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act by allowing employers and workers to "choose" to take compensatory time off rather than get time-and-a half overtime pay. Republicans say it's great for busy moms. Everyone else says the "flexible" act would
ironically deliberately make it harder for workers to balance the demands of job and family.
Congress should ensure that all employees have access to paid family and sick leave, since more than 40 percent of U.S. private sector workers — and more than 80 percent of those who are low-wage workers — can't get even one paid sick day to recover from illness or take care of sick kids. More than 40 percent of all workers can't even get unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. But yet, the GOP keeps trying to devise new and exciting ways to pay workers less money. Make no mistake: that's exactly what the misleadingly named bill would do.
Critics say the bill would be difficult to enforce, given as only about 6% of private sector employees are unionized and the Department of Labor can't follow up with everything. If workers are pressured into taking comp time instead of overtime pay — and then can't even use that comp time when they need it — where's the so-called flexibility?
The Huffington Post further explained why it's problematic:
Federal and state labor officials already have a hard time enforcing a rather clear-cut overtime law, and workers routinely claim in court that they've been denied the time-and-a-half pay that they've earned. Given the power dynamic between bosses and employees, the use of comp time could become something less than voluntary in practice in certain workplaces.
The time-and-a-half clause of the Fair Labor Standards Act serves as the primary governor of the 40-hour work week. Employers usually don't push employees to work beyond 40 hours because it becomes expensive for the employer. But as Ross Eisenbrey of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has noted of comp-time proposals, allowing workplaces to convert overtime to comp time could undermine this disincentive. Depending on the language of the bill, employers might also get to decide when an employee uses that comp time.
To summarize: the bill would totally fuck over the overtime protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, provide few protections for workers in cases of employer misconduct or bankruptcy and would mean a pay cut for workers without any guaranteed flexibility or time off. DO NOT WANT.
Thankfully, the Obama administration has said it would veto the bill.“This legislation undermines the existing right to hard-earned overtime pay, on which many working families rely to make ends meet, while misrepresenting itself as a workplace-flexibility measure that gives power to employees over their own schedules,” the White House said earlier this week. Let's hope it doesn't even make it that far.
(Image via Facebook.)