Wolf Condemns U.S. Congress’ ‘Workflex’ Bill

| July 28, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa (EYT) – Governor Wolf recently sent a letter to Pennsylvania congressional members of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce committee stating his lack of support for the “Workflex in the 21st Century” Act.

“Workflex in the 21st Century Act,” or H.R. 4219, is legislation that seeks to expand and protect paid leave and workplace flexibility (workflex) for workers across the country. The act was proposed by Representatives Mimi Walters (R-California), Elise Stefanik (R-New York), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington).

If enacted, the legislation would be voluntary for all employers.

The major tenants of the bill have to do with paid leave and workplace flexibility, or “workflex.”

Employers who voluntarily enact the legislation within their companies would be encouraged to provide a minimum number of paid leave days. Under the legislation, the days proposed to be provided as paid leave for employees would be based on the number of years that a worker has been with the company and how many people are employed within the company.

For example, a worker that is employed by a company with less than 50 employees would be given 12 guaranteed paid leave days while an employee who has been with a company of more than 1,000 workers for more than five years would be guaranteed 20 days of paid leave according to the proposed legislation.

Employers would also be encouraged to provide opportunities to allow flexibility in the workplace such as flexible scheduling and telecommunicating. Another aspect of the workflex options under the plan is how overtime would no longer be paid on a weekly basis but instead on a bi-weekly basis.

For example, if a parent has a week where his or her child has multiple activities that they need to attend in an upcoming week, they could choose to work 60 hours in one week and then work just 20 the next. Since overtime would be based on bi-weekly hours, the 80 hours accumulated over the two-week span would not warrant overtime pay.

Proponents of the act argue that the legislation would empower employees to dictate more of their work schedules while also guaranteeing paid vacation lead based on their number of years with the company. These two aspects, they argue, will very much improve morale in the workplace as employees will have more control over their work.

Opponents disavow the bill because they argue it would give large companies the power to dictate how and when paid days are used and will cause current workers to lose earned paid sick days. Others argue that the workflex schedule, specifically when it comes to bi-weekly pay for overtime, is simply a schedule that virtually no worker would be interested in following.

Governor Wolf falls in the latter category as he recently voiced his displeasure to Pennsylvania’s elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the bill’s potential impact on Pennsylvania workers.

“For too long, Pennsylvania’s workers have been held back by outdated policies that continue to place a burden on individuals and families. My administration has taken steps to strengthen our middle class by raising the minimum wage for state workers to $12.00 an hour, calling for an increased minimum wage for all Pennsylvania workers, modernizing our overtime regulations, addressing the gender pay gap, and calling for guaranteed earned sick leave. If HR 4219 were to become law, corporations would be able to undo any progress made on the state and local level to protect our workers and families.”

Wolf went on to voice his opinion on how the new policy on paid leave would be detrimental to the employees.

“HR 4219 would allow corporations, not the employee, to decide when a worker can use their time off to care for themselves or a loved one. It would allow employers to ignore any state or local laws giving workers paid leave and eliminate retaliation protection for workers who use their time. Access to paid sick leave improves the performance and well-being of employees, as well as improving overall public health. Giving sick workers the occasional option of staying at home to receive care will decrease their recovery time and reduce the likelihood of spreading illness. In states and municipalities that have enacted sick leave policies, there has been a positive impact for employers by guaranteeing they remain competitive for dedicated employees and in the local economy.”

Wolf also explained that the elimination of weekly overtime pay is, in his opinion, more of a flexibility for the employer instead of the employee.

“This bill would also allow employers to avoid paying overtime to a worker who works more than 40 hours a week. In this bill, corporations can avoid paying overtime pay by having a worker work more than 40 hours in one week and then cutting their hours the next week, as long as they stay under 80 hours between the two weeks. This is not flexibility for a worker. It is flexibility for the employer, and it will continue to shortchange individuals and families.”

“This bill is a benefits package for large corporations disguised as an attempt to provide flexibility for workers,” concluded Wolf.

“Pennsylvania workers should decide when they use the leave they have earned and should be paid overtime wages when they work more than 40 hours a week. Congress should not allow corporations to decide if they are going to follow state and local laws or impede the freedom of state and local governments to protect workers in their communities.”

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