Don’t be fooled by the so-called Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, which by the way is only the latest GOP effort to have this or a very similar bill enacted. Similar bills were introduced and failed in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The GOP wants to fool you by claiming that this bill would help working families and allow them the “flexibility” to “earn” compensatory time that can be used later to accommodate family issues such as sick children (which is why we have the FMLA) or other needs.
The truth is that this bill, passed by the House of Representatives today, is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a law that has been in existence since 1938, to ensure that American workers receive compensation for overtime worked. One of the primary policies behind the FLSA is the idea that when workers are denied compensation, there is a real and lasting harm. The FLSA further recognizes that a DELAY in the payment of earned compensation causes tangible and intangible harm to working families.
If you are owed overtime for work done in November, but don’t get paid until January, how will that affect your kids’ holiday? Will it be harder to have gifts for your kids for Christmas or Hannukah? If the money earned in August isn’t paid until the end of January, how much harder will it be to get those new shoes your kid needs for school? Is there any way to measure the effect of not being able to afford basic school supplies for your kids because Congress decided that your EMPLOYER needs the flexibility to play shell games with your hard earned income? Because that’s what this bill is. It isn’t for you. It’s for corporations.
The bill allows employers to “offer” employees the “choice” of receiving comp time instead of over time. In other words, you can “choose” paid time off in lieu of overtime. But how does it actually work? As written, an employer can deny a request to use comp time if it will “unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” But who decides what an undue disruption is? You don’t. Your employer does. If you disagree, what’s your remedy? File a lawsuit to force the employer to provide the comp time? By the time you get anywhere with that, the likelihood is that the employer will simply pay out your “unused” comp time, which it gets to do by January 31st every year. So, really, this isn’t about your flexibility. It’s about your employer being permitted to play a shell game with your money and manage its cash flow in the way it wants, regardless of how it affects you. Don’t be fooled. Call your Senators and tell them to vote no when this travesty is presented in the Senate. Check up on how your Representative voted. If he/she voted yes, call their office and tell them they’ve lost your vote in the next election. Only by arming yourself with knowledge and exercising your vote can you stop this trickery from being repeated.