The House Committee on Education and the Workforce today approved legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) that will help Americans balance family and work. The Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), approved the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1406) by a vote of 23 to 14.
Rep. Roby said the legislation simply offers workers in the private sector a flexibility benefit currently only authorized for public sector, or government workers.
"Denying private businesses and workers a benefit government employees already receive is highly hypocritical," Rep. Roby said. "It is also unfair. For some workers, having extra paid time off is actually more valuable than money. And, if that's the case, why should Washington stand in the way? The Working Families Flexibility Act would finally offer working Americans in the private-sector what their peers in the public-sector already enjoy -- more freedom and more control over their time so they can spend it the way they choose."
Chairman Kline, who presided over today's Committee markup meeting, praised the legislation.
"Today we've taken an important step toward providing workers the flexibility they need to better balance the needs of family and work," said Chairman Kline. "An outdated federal policy shouldn't deny workers the chance to spend more time with their children, attend parent-teacher conferences, or care for an aging relative. This is a commonsense proposal that is desperately needed in today's workplaces. I want to thank Representative Roby for championing this important legislation and I look forward to a floor debate in the House as soon as possible."
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires covered employees to receive an overtime rate of "time-and-a-half" for hours worked over 40 within a work week. The law mandates overtime compensation for private-sector workers in the form of cash wages and prohibits these workers from choosing paid time off instead. The law has become an impediment to employers who want to help employees manage work and family responsibilities.
As approved by the committee, H.R. 1406 will:
* Allow employers to offer employees a choice between cash wages and comp time for overtime hours worked. Employees who want to receive cash wages would continue to do so. No employee can be forced to take comp time instead of receiving overtime pay.
* Protect employees by requiring the employer and the employee to complete a written agreement to use comp time, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee. Where the employee is represented by a union, the agreement to take comp time must be part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the union and the employer.
* Retain all existing employee protections in current law, including the 40 hour work week and how overtime compensation is accrued. The bill adds additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary.
* Allow employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay cash wages for any unused time at the end of the year. Workers are free to "cash out' their accrued comp time whenever they choose to do so.