While the chance of both chambers approving bills this term that would significantly alter workplace wage and hour law is extremely low, members of the House and Senate continue to draw attention to this area. On Wednesday, Democratic members of both Houses of Congress introduced the Schedules that Work Act (H.R. 5159, S. 2642), a bill that would give hourly workers the right to request flexible and/or regular work schedules without reprisal. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Senate bill and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) sponsored the House version. The bill would establish an interactive process for requesting and considering such schedule changes. In addition, according to a fact sheet, the legislation would require employers to:
- Grant an employee's request to change his/her schedule on account of caregiving duties, health conditions, education/training classes, or demands of a second job, unless the employer sets forth a bona fide reason for denying the request;
- Pay retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early;
- Give retail, food service, and cleaning employees their work schedules at least two weeks in advance. In the event a schedule changes, the employer would be required to pay the employee one hour’s worth of extra pay for schedules changed with less than 24 hours' notice; and
- Pay workers an extra hour of pay if scheduled to work split shifts, or non-consecutive shifts within a single day.
This bill is unlikely to advance, but does continue the "opportunity for all" narrative being pushed in advance of the November elections.
Other members of Congress are also introducing their own workplace legislation. Just last week, Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Strong Families Act (S. 2618), a bill that would create an employer tax credit for each hour of paid leave provided to employees.
Finally, on July 30, 2014, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families is scheduled to hold a hearing entitled: "Paid Family Leave: The Benefits for Businesses and Working Families." The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. ET in room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. An agenda or witness list for that hearing has not yet been released.