on Education and the Workforce -
Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Markups
The Honorable Judy Biggert
April 3, 2003
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for yielding the time and thank you for your strong commitment to this issue. As you have noted, the Family Time Flexibility Act is a simple bill designed to give private sector workers the opportunity to have more flexibility in their work schedules, so that they can, for example, better meet the demands of work and family. The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow - but not require - an employer to offer employees the option of choosing overtime pay in the form of compensatory time rather than wages.
Last Congress, this Subcommittee held two hearings focusing on the need and desire on the part of workers to have increased flexibility in their work schedules. We heard from witnesses about the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred in the workplace over the past several decades. Not only has the composition of the workforce changed to include a wider range of workers with more diverse needs, but the nature and the structure of jobs have changed as well.
We also heard about what matters most to workers today, and that is the ability to balance work and family. An overwhelming percentage of working adults are very concerned about spending more time with their families. In fact, many would prefer to have time rather than money. At a minimum, workers want and expect to have options that will allow them to make choices about spending more time with their families or pursuing interests outside of work.
This Subcommittee recently heard testimony from Ms. Teri Martell, an employee with Eastman Kodak Company, who is prevented by law from having the choice of paid time off instead of overtime cash wages. As Ms. Martell testified, and I quote, “the compensation I receive now is only of monetary value. Money is very important and the main reason I work. But money does not solve all the needs of my children. If I were given the choice to take paid time off, I could do so for my family when I want or need to take time. I might then be able to make up some of those lost “family time days,” or care for my sick child or parent.”
Workers in federal, state and local governments are permitted to choose time and a half off for working overtime hours and thus enjoy a great deal more flexibility than Ms. Martell and her private sector counterparts. Because it is illegal for private sector workers to opt for an hour and a half of compensatory time in lieu of overtime wages, many of these workers must take a day off - without pay - in order to meet their family or personal obligations.
Some of my colleagues may say that companies will pressure their workers into taking compensatory time, as if such arrangements are cost-free and hassle-free to an employer. They aren’t. If we buy into the claims about what little defense and leverage workers will have against pressure from an employer to use compensatory time, then there would be no conceivable way to ever craft adequate protections for workers and the flexibility needed so desperately by today’s workers will never become part of the law.
Workers ought to have more flexibility and they deserve to have protections against employers who may try to coerce them into taking or using family time. H.R. 1119 is a comprehensive, balanced bill that addresses both of these points. I would urge my colleagues to support this important, common sense legislation.