Apr 05 2019
There are few commodities on this earth more precious than time. And this is particularly true for working parents, who are constantly trying to manage the juggle between work and time with their children. Many American families know this struggle all too well.
A law passed in 1978 aimed to help hourly-paid government employees with this struggle by allowing them to choose between taking overtime pay or paid time off. So, if they worked more than 40 hours one week, they could take a bigger paycheck home for that week or instead bank that time to use for family priorities when needed.
But under current law, this practice is illegal in the private sector. Employers are actually prohibited from coming to an agreement with their employees about how their overtime is used.
The only option available to private-sector employees is to receive monetary compensation at 1.5 times their normal pay. They don’t have the option to spend those precious hours with newborns and toddlers, or at doctor’s appointments, parent teacher conferences, and little league games.
This legal disparity unfairly discriminates against working parents in the private sector, and it’s long overdue that it be addressed.
That’s why this week, I reintroduced the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2019.
This bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide private-sector employers with the flexibility to give their employees either the option to choose either traditional overtime pay or paid time off – both accrued at 1.5 times the overtime hours worked.
Employers would not be able to force comp time on their employees, and employees would not be able to take comp time whenever they wanted. Instead, the legislation requires employers and employees to come to a written agreement on how and when accrued overtime can be exchanged for comp time.
If an employee wants to cash out all of their accrued time at the traditional overtime rate, they can do so at any time. And if an employee has any unused comp time at the end of the year, employers must cash that time out at the traditional overtime rate.
It’s a totally voluntary proposal for both employers and employees: employers are not forced to offer it, and employees are not forced to take it.
In addition to offering safeguards to ensure that the choice to use comp time is voluntary, it retains all existing labor protections for employees, including the 40-hour workweek and overtime accrual protections.
Today, there are more dual-earner households than ever before. The needs of American parents and families have changed, and the labor regulations of 1938 are too rigid to address them.
Unlike other proposals that burden employers and harm employees, this legislation would make paid time off more realistic for employers and more accessible to employees.
If we are to invest in our greatest resource – American families – this is a commonsense solution for us to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time that we give private-sector employees the same flexibility as government employees and support all working parents, allowing them to spend invaluable time with their families.