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First Gov  

May 9, 1997

S. 4 - Family Friendly Workplace Act
(Ashcroft (R) MO and 41 others)

The Administration strongly opposes S. 4, as reported by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, because it does not uphold three fundamental principles: (1) real choice for workers; (2) real protection against employer abuse; and (3) preservation of workers' rights. The President will veto S. 4 or any other compensatory time legislation that does not fulfill these principles.

S. 4 purports to give working families greater flexibility. In reality, it grants employers more rights and leaves working Americans and their families worse off:

  • S. 4 fails to offer workers real choice. In particular, S. 4 would allow an employer to unfairly pick and choose which employees are offered compensatory time. Moreover, it would allow the employer to decide when workers use their compensatory time-off by disapproving such time-off if the employer claims it would "unduly disrupt" its operations -- even if a worker needed the time off for family leave or medical emergencies. In addition, S. 4 would permit an employer to unilaterally "cash out" a worker's earned compensatory time over 80 hours. These provisions do not guarantee real choices to workers.

  • S. 4 fails to protect workers against potential abuse. At a time when overtime is reaching an all-time high in some industries, S. 4 offers inadequate protections against employer abuse, especially for vulnerable workers and part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees, including garment and construction workers. The bill also fails to prohibit employers from substituting compensatory time-off for paid vacation or sick leave benefits. It does not adequately safeguard workers when an employer goes bankrupt or out of business: workers could lose up to six weeks of pay due to S. 4's unreasonably high cap of 240 hours of bankable compensatory time. S. 4 also lacks meaningful remedies when workers exercise their private right of action against employers who penalize them for choosing overtime pay in lieu of compensatory time.

  • S. 4 fails to preserve workers' rights. It effectively eliminates the 40-hour workweek by allowing employers to establish an 80-hour biweekly work schedule or a flexible credit hour program that allows employers to pay straight time pay for overtime work. That is money out of the employee's pocket. It also ends the 60-year-old right to time and a half pay whenever an employee works more than 40 hours a week, not just when the employer orders it. In addition, workers who take compensatory time-off can be forced to work extra hours in the same week even on the weekend without being paid time and a half pay. This gives families less flexibility, not more. If compensatory time legislation is truly to provide more flexibility to working families, it must not be allowed to undermine the 40-hour workweek.
Finally, the Administration strongly believes that any legislation to authorize compensatory time under the Fair Labor Standards Act should be linked to expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Expanding the FMLA to give working families greater flexibility to foster the education of their children or provide elder care will go a long way toward achieving the stated goals of S. 4.