By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, January 21, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) released a written statement and a video statement to highlight her Working Families Flexibility Act as a realistic, conservative alternative to the President’s workforce proposals in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. Representative Roby plans to introduce the bill this week. US Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) will introduce the bill in the Senate.
At a news conference with House Republican leaders, Rep. Roby said that she was glad to hear President Obama mention the need to improve workplace flexibility. Rep. Roby said, “We couldn’t agree more that workers need more flexibility…The president has the right goal, but we have a more realistic approach by offering workers choices through ‘comp time.’”
Rep. Roby continued, “As we saw with ObamaCare, slapping federal mandates on the workplace can have serious unintended consequences. Workers have seen their hours reduced thanks to this Administration’s previous attempts to dictate how the workplace operates…We need to get Washington out of the way for how people use their time.”
According to information released by Congresswoman Roby’s office, the Working Families Flexibility Act would allow private-sector workers the option to receive paid time off, or “comp time,” for overtime hours worked. A working mom or dad could use an hour of overtime he or she earned as paid “time and a half” off work instead of “time and a half” cash, if that’s what they would rather have. In 1985 this flexibility was given to government workers in a revision to the Fair Labor Standards Act, but these sorts of arrangements remained illegal in the private sector.
Under the Roby bill, no worker could be forced to take paid time off, just like no business owner would be forced to offer it. The bill retains all existing worker protections in current law, including the 40-hour work week and collective bargaining rules. The bill provides additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary.
The final versions of the bill are expected to be introduced in the House and Senate today.
According to Rep. Roby’s office the Working Families Flexibility Act: Removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on private sector employers offering workers “comp time” in lieu of cash wages for overtime; Provides flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to spend taking care of family responsibilities; and Demonstrates how applying conservative principles can help working Americans in their everyday lives.
There would have to be a written agreement between the employer and the employee, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee. As with cash overtime pay, comp time accrues at a “time and a half” rate: one hour of overtime worked equals one hour and a half of comp time. Employees could accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. Workers can cash out their accrued comp time whenever they choose and receive the equivalent in cash wages within 30 days of notice to the employer. At the end of the year the employer would be required to pay out cash wages for any unused accrued time. This allows flexibility to employees as long as they provide reasonable notice to the employer and their leave does not “unduly disrupt” the workplace.
The bill contains anti-coercion provisions that would prohibit an employer from directly or indirectly intimidating, threatening, or coercing an employee into taking or not taking comp time. 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. The legislation does not affect the 40-hour workweek or change the way that overtime is calculated.
The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that all overtime for employees be paid in cash wages for time-and-a-half.
Congresswoman Roby’s Working Families Flexibility bill passed the Republican controlled U.S. House but joined the over 300 other House bills which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) failed to vote on in the Democrat controlled US Senate. In last year’s elections, the American people gave Republicans control of the Senate for the first time since 2006. GOP lawmakers in the House are hopeful that their bills will now get more consideration from the Senate.
To see Rep. Roby’s video statement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmWE4iq9Cvc&authuser=0