Trading Overtime Pay for Flexible Hours

July 15, 2013

There is a new bill that was passed by the House of Representatives a couple of months ago that is on its way to the Senate. It’s called The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 and I’m a little concerned about some of the provisions in it.

On the surface, it sounds wonderful. Flexible hours, flexible vacations, flexible everything. But one thing stood out as I was reading it, and that is that the employee doesn’t have any protections under the new bill.

Up until now, you have been able to earn time and a half for overtime hours. Under the new bill, you wouldn’t get extra pay; you’d only be able to take time off, with a maximum of 160 compensatory hours. And that time off would be at the employer’s discretion, not yours. This is the kind of law that would render the labor unions obsolete, or at best, paper lions.

The short story is that after you have gotten permission to take two weeks in December as your comp time and you’ve already paid for your plane tickets and made your travel plans, your boss can tell you that you’ll have to make different arrangements because they have suddenly gotten very busy and your absence would disrupt the operation of the business (and that get out of jail card is clearly stated in the House bill).

The House of Representatives can argue that employees are covered under this bill because employers will not be allowed to fire them or take retaliatory measures against them if they should refuse to work on the days or at the hours that the boss is asking them to work.

This doesn’t take into account the fear factor. People who are at the low end of the pay scale or those who are earning a decent wage but have families to support and mortgages to pay, are often too afraid to refuse an employer’s requests/demands for fear of the different types of retaliatory measures that an employer can take that are difficult to prove.

I didn’t see anything in the bill about health insurance, paid vacations, sick days, National holidays, etc. Since this bill is all about flexible hours, I didn’t expect to see any provision for medical leave or maternity leave so I wasn’t surprised by their absence.

Most of the bill talks about full-time employees who work 40 hours a week but it didn’t say if you would be guaranteed 40 hours a week as a full-time employee. It also didn’t say whether the customary benefits have been taken off the table under this flexible everything bill but I would think that should be a major consideration before the Senate votes on the bill.

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