Flexible Work Schedule Bill Gets Support from Chambers

The California Chamber of Commerce and a coalition including numerous local chambers of commerce are supporting legislation that allows for an employee-selected flexible work schedule.

AB 1761 (Voepel; R-Santee) relieves employers of the administrative cost and burden of adopting an alternative workweek schedule per division, which accommodates employees, helps retain employees, and allows the employer to invest these savings into growing its workforce.

Traps in California Process

California is one of the only states that requires employers to pay daily overtime after eight hours of work in addition to weekly overtime after 40 hours of work.

Even other states that impose daily overtime requirements allow the employer and employee to essentially waive the daily eight-hour overtime requirement through a written agreement.

California, however, provides no such common-sense alternative. Rather, California requires employers to navigate through a multi-step process to have employees elect an alternative workweek schedule that, once adopted, must be “regularly” scheduled and must apply to the entire work unit.

This process is filled with potential traps that could lead to costly litigation, as one misstep may render the entire alternative workweek schedule invalid and leave the employer on the hook for claims of unpaid overtime wages.

Little Used Option

Currently, there are 42,494 reported alternative workweek schedules with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. According to the Employment Development Department, California has about 1.2 million employers. Therefore, about less than 4% of California employers utilize the alternative workweek schedule option.

Further, more realistically, given that the information in the database is according to work unit instead of employer, it is likely that less than 1% of employers in California are utilizing this process.

Employees Want Flexibility

Employees want flexibility in their work schedules. In a recent CalChamber poll, 88% of voters agreed (49% of them strongly) that the state’s overtime laws should be changed to make it easier for employees to work alterative schedules, such as four 10-hour days.

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 91% of human resources professionals agree that flexible work arrangements positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.

According to Corporate Voices for Working Families and WFD Consulting, an in-depth study of five organizations that allow their nonexempt employees to have flexibility in their schedules found that employee commitment was 55% higher and burnout and stress decreased by 57%.

Pandemic Impact

Women and low-income workers have suffered the most from the inability to have flexible schedules, feeling pressured to abandon career goals to care for children and fulfill household obligations.

That pressure has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. An article by NPR estimated that close to 900,000 women left the workforce in 2020 to keep up with the demands of child care and household obligations. That rate is four times higher than men.

With near-record unemployment, California should be doing everything possible to maximize opportunities for employers to allow employees to set hours that work for an employee’s personal and family obligations. This way, workers can continue to be employed and support themselves and their families.

Individual Flexibility

AB 1761 would provide employees more flexibility because the employee could request an alternative workweek schedule on an individualized basis. It would also relieve employers of the administrative cost and burden of adopting an alternative workweek schedule per division.

Pursuant to AB 1761, at the request of the employee, an employer would be able to implement a flexible work schedule that allows the employee to work up to 10 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, before overtime is owed.

Employers should be able to provide their employees more flexibility and negotiate through a written agreement, revocable by either party, the daily/weekly schedule that satisfies the needs of both the employee(s) and the employer.

Promoting flexible policies that allow employees to continue to be employed and earning income while working from home is needed now more than ever.

AB 1761 has been assigned to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. No hearing date has been set.

Staff Contact: Ashley Hoffman

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Ashley Hoffman joined the CalChamber in August 2020 as a policy advocate specializing in labor and employment and workers’ compensation issues. She was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of her efforts on behalf of members. Before joining the CalChamber, she was an associate attorney in the Sacramento office of Jackson Lewis P.C., representing employers in civil litigation and administrative matters, as well as advising employers on best practices, including compliance with labor laws. She previously worked as a litigation associate and a summer associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Los Angeles. She also was a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis and a judicial extern for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena. Hoffman holds a B.A. with high honors in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Michael T. Masin scholar, an editor at the UCLA Law Review, and staff member for the Women’s Law Journal. See full bio