‘Mandatory flexibility’: Welcome to the Working Families Flexibility Act

Many companies bend over backwards to make adjustments for employees’ individual needs when assigning jobs and devising schedules. Now there are some folks in Congress who want to make that flexibility mandatory.

Welcome to the Working Families Flexibility Act, a proposal that would legally guarantee employees the right to ask their employers for a change in their work hours, schedule or location. Workers would submit an application for the change, the employer would be required to have a discussion with the worker, and respond with a written decision within 14 days. If the answer’s no, the company has to state the reason for its decision.

The employee would have the right to appeal a denial, and the 14-day discussion-and-decision timeclock starts over again.

The bill would outlaw discrimination or retaliation against employees who made change requests. If held liable, companies would be looking at fines between $1,000 and $5,000 — and in the case of improper termination, employers could be looking at damages and reinstatement.

Questions: Is this bill necessary? Don’t employees already have the right to ask for a change in work situation? No law against asking a question, right?

Is all this extra bureaucracy really going to change the way companies do business? Most place we know already do their best to accommodate employees’ special situations. It makes good sense. Formalizing — and legalizing — the process isn’t going to push an employer into letting workers do things that aren’t in the best interest of the operation.

We’ll keep you posted on how the  bill progresses. For an overview of the proposal, go here.

0 thoughts on “‘Mandatory flexibility’: Welcome to the Working Families Flexibility Act”

  1. Who comes up with this stuff? It is real simple. I own the company. I took the risk and can loose everything. You work for me. This is the schedule I want you to work and where I want you to work. You now have a choice, you work the where and when you are needed, or find another employer, or go in business for yourself and work any schedule that you want.

  2. No kidding! I have to admit, I have a great job w/great flexibility from my employer … BUT I had to leave a job that I LOVED & where I made MORE MONEY! That was my trade-off. The flexibility was worth the lower pay to me. Can we please stop the madness????? Take some personal responsibility people!

  3. Some of these bills are getting quite ridiculous. An employer has a need for certain people to fill certain jobs for so many hours between particular hours so his company can make money. If you do not like the hours, do not accept the job. It’s that simple. To mandate something like this is just plain silly.

  4. You can’t have it all! If you can’t work full-time and make that commitment to your employer than you should either work part-time or on your own as an independent contractor and make up your own schedule. I am all for flexibility as needed to accomodate staff but if everyone requires flexibility we won’t be able to run our business and if we grant some employees flexibility and not others than we will be accused of discrimination.

  5. Lew- you may be able to make all of the rules as an Owner, but as an owner of a business in a very competitive business environement you need good people and being rigid is the last way to keep them if your competetors are flexible and offer a great place to work. You could always pay people more and keep them with golden handcuffs, but even Kim admitted leaving money for quality of life, a lot of great employees feel the same way. I dont think legislation is the answer, it should be a matter of commen sense for employers, happy employees are productive employees. If you hire the right people, flexablity can have huge benefits for an employer, and it’s lose not loose.

  6. The problem is that we have idiots in congress. Many of them have not so much as managed a Dairy Queen let alone understand how a business operates. You would think that with all the companies moving their operations out of the U.S or just closing their doors these idiots would recognize that and introduce some legislation that would actually help businesses reduce their cost’s and become more competetive in the Global Market! This legislation will just add more cost to operating a business. If you want a job with more flexible hours, go work at Walmart or Burger King!

  7. Jackie T - SPHR

    Lew, you have it right. Who comes up with this stuff…governmental officials who have nothing to do but come up with crazy ideas no one can ever really follow. Now we will have to deal with “why can’t I change my schedule, you let so-and-so change their schedule. I bet its because I am purple”. Then you have to justify why one person can change and another can’t. I’ll tell you what, why don’t we just let everyone come in and work whenever they want, whatever days of the week the want and do whatever they want while they are there. A little while of that businesses will close because no one can get anything done. ARRRRRGGGG! So frustrating…like HR doesn’t have enough to keep up with…just add another impossible to administer “Act”.

  8. I’m not an owner. I’m just one of many employees here. I’m sick of the people who want everything their way. One wants a later start time, another a longer lunch, and still another to leave earlier. The young ones what to be able to check their FaceBook multiple times during the day. What the owner doesn’t realize that by being nice to them they are being mean to the rest of us. Somebody has to pick up their slack! Lew has it right, this is the job, these are the hours, and this is the pay. Work it or someone else will.

  9. Not every business has the ability to be flexible with schedules. I work in the health care field and our direct care staff do rounds at the begining and end of the their shift. If people start coming in at different times vital information may not be communicated, patients could suffer! I’m all for being as flexible as possible and doing whatever we can to retain good employees but not if it impacts care.

  10. I thought this was a joke. HR 1274 was introduced in March 2009 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney from NY. There were 6 co-sponsors. Looks like it was referred to committee, but no further action has been taken. I expect there are several bills introduced in Congress each year that are equally ridiculous and never passed into law. I don’t think this is one we’ll have to worry about.

  11. Just another piece of legislation aimed at maintaining full employment for our growing legal profession. This is another good example of the federal government medaling where they are not needed or wanted. This type of regulation is a nuisance to big business but it is killing small business which does not have the resources to deal with compliance, let alone the potential litigation. In my opinion, congress has seriously abused its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. Our founding fathers are surly turning over in their graves.

  12. No one seems to be in favor of this ridiculous bill — and why would they be? Employers are already doing their best to find and keep good employees, and most are as flexible as possible. Don’t see the point of adding another layer of paperwork for a law that is totally unnecessary. Unless it’s paper companies that are pushing for this?????

  13. Jeez! Would someone (i.e. Congress) stop it already with all the family-friendly, working-parent lingo? It drives me crazy! It’s nothing more than words and phrases that make politicians look like they have empathy with their constitutents. Last I read, over 60% of US households do NOT have a person under the age of 18 living in them. Therefore, one could surmise that such policies do not apply to over half of our country’s population. You may have guessed it — I don’t have kids. Yet, why do my out-of-office activities take a backseat to those of my co-workers who have kiddos at home? It’s maddening. I agree with another post that this bill will probably never come to fruition, but it still frustrates me that I don’t get the same benefits as others in my company and these kinds of suggestions will widen the gap even further. Not only does it create a disparity in valued benefits, but it may also create a morale problem amongst the staff.

  14. I sent Representative Maloney a email about how idiotic this bill is and asked her to utilize her time better. As I thought, Maloney’s work record turned up a 7 year stint as a teacher and a board of education member. It appears she has never worked in the private sector, but has been in office for over 30 years . (It’s time to vote her out)
    Unfortunately it’s individuals like this (e.g. Ted Kennedy) who, having never worked in the private sector, are introducing legislation like this. She probably had a friend that couldn’t get his or her work scheduled changed with their employer.

  15. I agree with most of the comments above and that legislation probably isn’t the right course.

    However, I can see some need. I work for a local government whose management are appointees who have little-to-no real-life business experience. What comes to mind when people say “government” is pretty true throughout all the upper enchelons of management. That being said, management is clueless how to manage people. The only way they can determine if someone is working is if they are present in their seat at the appointed times. They care less about any of the employees, nor the taxpayers, and only do what is politically expedient for their friends holding the elected offices. Not that this is a good thing in general, but something like this would force them to actually consider business logic/decisions for not allowing flexibility. We’ve had droves of qualified, experienced people leave, leaving only your typical stereotype government employees who are willing to put up with the Mickey Mouse games because they can’t get jobs anywhere else.

    Because of the lack of management skills and accountability, and also the lack of flexibility, I will be leaving in about a year, once I hit my 10-year mark and can vest my pension benefits.

    My main issue is that I would like to use public transportation. The schedules are reduced since I live out in the suburbs so if I could come in to work 5-10 minutes “late” each day I could take advantage of the public transit. Otherwise I have to leave 50 minutes earlier, doubling my commute from just under an hour to just under two hours each way. I will not sacrifice my family time this much to use the alternative transportation options. I’ve worked in both the private and public sectors and know from being an operations manager what it takes for jobs to run efficiently. For my current job, it really would make no difference if I was here even a half hour early or a half-hour later at the beginning or end of the day.

  16. I must say I think employers who can be flexible are flexible. I also agree with Lew, if you cannot work the schedule being offered, it is time to look for a job elsewhere. I am trying to think of what industry this bill sparked from. What industry could be more flexible but is not which makes people think they are being treated unfairly? Most jobs have a reason for the hours expected to be worked.

    As a married individual without children, my first thought was that I would always be the one put upon by this legislation because child rearing would always come before whatever I found important in my life. “Let Diane work the hours no one else wants, whether it ‘works’ for her or not, she doesn’t have kids to take care…”

  17. While I do not see this bill actually being passed, it did raise a big question in my mind. If it did pass, how would it affect the “at-will” relationship between employer and employee? The employee can still quit for any reason, but the employer’s reasons would have to be VERY carefully spelled out so as not to appear to violate this law. Hmmmmm….. And all this just to be sure we document the fact that we actually addressed the employee’s concerns, versus just talking to the employee as a human being?

  18. The only advantage here is for salaried employees. In their case a boss can tell them they have to work late tonight or work this weekend without any significant forewarning. If the employee does not want to, then they can be terminated for not abiding by the laws surrounding salaried workers, which simply put, is to work as many hours as is needed to get the job done. It can be 20 hours a day 7 days a week. There are no concrete protection to salaried employees.

    My employer is quite good with me, so I’ve no real complaints, but even I have had to go to daycare, pick up my kid, and bring him back to work with me because I had to continue working (also 1 time bring my child in on a Saturday). It’s not like my boss held a gun to my head, but who doesn’t worry about being terminated under pressure.

    I worked for EDS and they required us to work every Saturday and Sunday for several months. One lady finally said “no” to one Sunday (her child supposedly had some activity) and she was promptly fired. She sued. She won! In fact, they had to pay our entire team (80+ people) back pay for something like 3 years of overtime. Most people received checks around $10,000 USD. Unfortunately, I was exempt because a SMALL portion of my job included supervision (handing out and approving work), so I got nothing. I quit. Talk about feeling screwed.. years of feeling abused with hours of unpaid work, then virtually everyone gets 10K checks and you get nothing and your complaint of it to your boss is summarily ignored, probably viewed as “whining.” Hugely insulting.

    Now, tell me, are there not cases where this law may apply?

    And, I am NOT a liberal in the least, there are just some scrupulous employers our there who know how to skirt legal protections to employees.

  19. The reason they keep coming up with anti-employer bills is they only listen to their supporters (unions, lawyers, unemployed) and don’t think about how it impacts businesses. There is no reasonable need for this kind of law. I am still waiting for the first bill or idea to come from this President and Congress that is pro-business. I fear it may be a long wait.

  20. I am glad I won’t be around to see what happens in 50 years. Who will want to or will be able to afford to run their own business. I guess we can all get jobs working for the government.

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