Support H.R. 1119, the Family Time Flexibility Act of 2003
June 2, 2003
Member of the House of Representatives:
On behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector and region, I would like to express our support for the "Family Time Flexibility Act," H.R. 1119, which we understand the House of Representatives is to consider in the very near future. The legislation, introduced by Representative Biggert, would simply amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow private sector employers to offer their workers a voluntary choice between overtime wages or extra paid time off. This is a choice that has been available in the public sector for years where it has worked well. Just as with overtime payments, paid time off would accrue at a rate of one and one half hours for each hour of overtime worked.
H.R. 1119 is a simple, common sense solution that provides employers some additional flexibility in today's workplace, and allows them to help employees balance work and family responsibilities or other personal needs. Dual income earners are now common in the workforce, in contrast to when the FLSA was enacted in 1938, and occasionally the law needs to be changed to reflect new realties. This legislation takes that step. Incredibly, current law flatly prohibits private sector employers and employees from agreeing to extra paid time off in lieu of overtime wages, no matter how informed and voluntary that choice may be.
Many employers and employees will use the choices permitted under this bill, and many will not. It is the voluntary nature of the legislation that is its strength. Opponents will argue that this bill somehow undermines an employee's right to overtime wages. Nothing could be further from the truth. H.R. 1119 contains numerous protections, including strong enforcement provisions, to ensure that an employee's choice of overtime wages or extra paid time off is truly voluntary. Notably the bill also "sunsets" after five years. Because an affirmative act of Congress will be necessary to extend the program, there will be ample opportunity to revisit and correct any problems that might arise.
Again, we strongly urge your support for this simple, but important, legislation. The Chamber will consider votes on or related to H.R. 1119 for inclusion in our annual "How They Voted" rankings.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce