Head Smacker: Misnamed “Working Families Flexibility Act” Would Give Workers Less Flexibility, Less Time and Less Pay


May 1, 2017

UPDATE: This bill passed the House on May 2 on a vote of 229-197; no Democrats supported the bill, and they were joined by six Republicans who also voted no. See how your Representative voted here. We’ll keep you updated on the bill’s progress in the Senate.

Bills in Congress are named by those who write them, which means the name can sound good even if the bill actually does the opposite of what the title implies. That’s the case with the Working Families Flexibility Act. It sounds like a good thing, right? Families would get more flexibility, and who doesn’t want that? Don’t let the name fool you, though.

A fact sheet from the National Partnership for Women & Families lays out all the ways in which this bill, which passed the House Education and Workforce Committee on April 26, is a bad deal for workers. It claims to give hourly workers more flexibility by allowing them to choose paid time off, or “comp time,” for working more than 40 hours a week instead of getting paid overtime. However, workers aren’t guaranteed they’ll be able to take the time off when they need it, even in the case of an emergency. The bill would also allow employers to decide, without consulting employees, to pay workers for any earned comp time banked beyond 80 hours, taking time away from a worker who might have been counting on using it for the birth of a child or a surgery. And workers who count on overtime pay to make ends meet would be left struggling with even less money than before. CHN and many other groups signed on to the National Partnership’s letter to members of Congress opposing this head-smacking bill. The House could vote on the bill as early as this week, but you can use tools from the National Partnership or MomsRising to tell your members of Congress to protect overtime pay and vote no on this bill that creates a false choice between time off and money.

Instead of bad deals with good-sounding names, America’s workers need real family-friendly policies like the Healthy Families Act and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. These bills would give all workers the time off they need when they need it, including time to take care of their own illness, a family member’s illness, or the birth or adoption of a child. The Schedules that Work Act would give workers more control over their schedules and offer predictability and stability in shifts and work hours. This is especially important to low-wage workers with child care needs. The Raise the Wage Act, announced on April 26 as well, would incrementally raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and gradually eliminate the much lower minimum wage for workers earning tips, lifting the pay of more than 41 million Americans.

For nearly 80 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has guaranteed time-and-a-half pay for certain workers working more than 40 hours a week. The Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180/S. 801) would erode this basic guarantee, putting workers’ economic security at risk. If this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” bill is passed, workers would in fact have less time, less money and less flexibility. That’s a bad deal, no matter what you call it.

Head Smacker
Labor and Employment
minimum wage
paid leave
Poverty and Income
Working Families Flexibility Act