Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
A bill that would give employees a statutory right to request flexible work terms and conditions was reintroduced this week. The Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1274), introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), George Miller (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), would give workers the right to request flexible work options to balance the demands of their jobs and home life. This legislation was patterned after similar laws in Europe. Reps. Maloney and Miller had introduced this bill in the last congressional session (H.R. 4301). While still a senator, President Obama co-sponsored a companion bill (S. 2419) in the Senate along with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY).
This legislation would authorize an employee to request from an employer a change in the terms or conditions of the employee’s employment if the request relates to: (1) the number of hours the employee is required to work; (2) the times when the employee is required to work; or (3) where the employee is required to work. Additionally, the bill sets forth certain duties for the employer with respect to such requests. Upon receiving a request, an employer would be required to hold a meeting with the employee within two weeks to discuss his or her application and provide a written decision regarding the application. If the application is rejected, the employer would be required to provide a reason for the denial. If dissatisfied with the proffered explanation, the employee would have the right to request reconsideration of the employer’s decision, and the employer and employee would be required to once again meet on the reconsideration. The employer’s final decision must be in writing, and, if reconsideration is denied, the employer would be required to state grounds for such denial in writing. Acts of retaliation against employees who avail themselves of this process are prohibited.
In addition, this bill authorizes an employee to file a complaint with the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration of the Department of Labor (DOL) for any violation of the rights granted under the Act. The Act would imbue the Administrator with the power to investigate and assess civil penalties or award equitable relief such as employment, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, and a change in the terms or conditions of employment. The DOL would be charged with developing regulations to administer the interactive process.
To be eligible to take advantage of the terms of this bill, an employee must work an average of at least 20 hours per week, or at least 1,000 hours per year. Employers with fewer than 15 employees are exempt.