Sen. Mike Lee introduces bill to help working families

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, addresses the Utah Republican Party’s annual organizing convention Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Sandy, Utah. Lee proposed a bill with 22 cosponsors that will allow employees to choose between overtime pay and comp-time. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Utah Sen. Mike Lee proposed a bill to the U.S. Congress to help working families in the private sector.

Lee introduced the “Working Family Flexibility Act” on Jan. 22 with majority leader Mitch McConnell and 22 cosponsors. It is designed to give more options to employees who log overtime hours and also have family or community responsibilities.

The bill introduces comp-time as alternate overtime compensation to facilitate flexibility. An employee can earn one-and-a-half hours of paid time off for each hour worked overtime, rather than taking overtime pay.

“For many families, especially with young children, their most precious commodity is time,” Lee said in a press release. “But today, federal labor laws restrict the way moms and dads and everyone else can use their time.”

Brian Phillips, Lee’s communication director, said the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set the current standard of a 40-hour workweek. It also requires that private sector employers pay employees no less than one-and-a-half times the hourly wage for any hours worked over 40. Congress has exempted government employees from these restrictions for several decades.

Similar legislation has been proposed in the past but received criticism for fear it would weaken the protections given workers in 1938. The current bill maintains the 40-hour workweek and ensures that employees will be able to choose between comp-time or overtime pay.

“It’s a modest reform by some measures,” Phillips said. “But it is an important step in making government-sector and the private-sector labor practices more equal.”

Phillips said the spirit of this bill is for employers and employees to create unique compensation plans that work best for both parties. “More choices and more flexibility generally results in better policy,” he said.

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