By Linda Meric, 9to5 national executive director
Much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the falsely cloaked Working Families Flexibility Act (HR 1406) would hurt, not help, families. The Working Families Flexibility Act, a true misnomer, would in reality ensure workers have less time, less flexibility and less money.
This anti-family proposal would force workers to spend more time away from their families in exchange for possibly getting to spend time later with their families. Under this proposal, the employer, not the employee, determines when earned comp time can be used.
In other words, a low-wage working mother could be forced to work 50 hours one week during Spring Break when her children are off from school and in exchange for the overtime work get 10 hours off another week when they are back in school. This may be flexibility for the employer, but it would cost the employee extra money for childcare, less money in overtime earnings and less time with her family.
Low-wage workers frequently have to rely on their overtime earnings to make ends meet.Employers currently steal billions of dollars annually from workers in unpaid overtime compensation. This problem would be exacerbated by this proposal because it would become easier for employers to avoid overtime compensation obligations. Although the bill provides the right to sue in court, low-wage workers lack the resources necessary to engage in costly and protracted litigation, and fear retaliation or losing their jobs. And under this proposal, there are no protections for employees to receive the value of their earned comp time if their employer goes out of business or goes bankrupt.
Finally, workers already have some flexibility because of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Currently, employers can and some do allow employees to rearrange their schedules to fit in a school recital or doctor’s appointment. And those who work a lot of overtime and don’t need more money can be allowed to take unpaid days off.
9to5 members, along with the thousands of women and men who call our toll-free national helpline annually, are desperate for more time with their families, more control over their schedules, and sufficient earnings to be economically secure. Michelle, a 9to5 Colorado member who is a single mom raising two children, one with special needs, says, “Things are tough enough for single working mothers. If Congress was really interested in helping families like mine, they would pass policies that help us take care of our kids and our jobs, like earned paid sick days and paid family medical leave.”
Members of Congress should vote NO on HR 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act, and instead support paid sick days, equal pay measures, fair scheduling practices, paid family and medical leave insurance, a fair minimum wage, and expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act. There is currently federal legislation that has been introduced to address many of these subjects. To support real flexibility, the Congress must prioritize those bills and move forward to provide workers the standards and support that they and their families need.
HR 1406’s sponsors need to get real and drop the pretense. This bill does nothing to make life work for families, it just makes life harder.