HR 1 -- 03/19/97

March 19, 1997

H.R. 1 - Working Families Flexibility Act of 1997
(Ballenger (R) NC and 99 others)

The President will veto H.R. 1 if it is passed in its current form. The President will not sign H.R. 1, or any other comp time legislation, unless it adheres to three fundamental principles: (1) real choice for workers; (2) real protection against employer abuse; and (3) preservation of workers' rights.

H.R. 1 purports to give working families greater flexibility. In reality, it grants employers more rights at the expense of working people:

  • H.R. 1 fails to offer workers real choice. In particular, H.R. 1 would allow an employer to decide when a worker could use his or her compensatory time-off by disapproving such time-off if the employer claims it would "unduly disrupt" its operations. In addition, H.R. 1 would permit an employer to "cash out" a worker's earned compensatory time over 80 hours.

  • H.R. 1 fails to protect workers against employer abuse. For example, H.R. 1 offers inadequate protections for vulnerable workers and part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees, including garment and construction workers, and those who are employed in industries with histories of Fair Labor Standards Act violations. H.R. 1 also fails to prohibit employers from substituting compensatory time-off for paid vacation or sick leave benefits. Furthermore, H.R. 1 lacks meaningful remedies for workers when employers penalize them for electing to receive overtime pay in lieu of compensatory time-off. In addition, H.R. 1 contains inadequate worker safeguards in cases where an employer goes bankrupt or out-of-business.

  • H.R. 1 fails to preserve workers' rights. Workers who take compensatory time-off can be forced to work additional overtime in the same week -- even on the weekend -- without being paid overtime premium pay.
The Administration supports the substitute amendment to be offered by Representative George Miller, although procedural obstacles in the House have prevented the amendment from addressing all of the important issues that need to be treated, including expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Administration strongly believes that any legislation to authorize compensatory time under the Fair Labor Standards Act should be linked to expansion of the FMLA. Expanding the FMLA to give working families greater flexibility to foster the education of their children or provide routine health care for their children or elderly relatives will go a long way toward achieving the stated goals of H.R. 1.

The Miller amendment, however, would ensure real employee choice, by adding crucial provisions not found in H.R. 1. For example, employers that adopt comp time programs would have to make comp time available to similarly-situated employees on a fair and non-discriminatory basis. Working families are guaranteed real protection against possible comp time abuse through the Miller amendment.

Furthermore, the Miller amendment would preclude employers from using comp time to modify or reduce existing paid leave plans. It would entitle employees choosing comp time to get regular statements of their accrual and use of comp time; put a reasonable limit on the number of hours of comp time that can be accrued; and allow employees to seek damages when they incur costs because an employer wrongfully denies them use of the comp time they earned. The Secretary of Labor would have the authority to bar employers with a pattern and practice of comp time abuse from continuing to offer comp time. H.R. 1 has none of these protections. These are all improvements to H.R. 1 that guarantee the legislation enhances rather than decreases flexibility for America's working families.