Community Columns

Chamber a supporter of flexible work hours measure

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce supports Assembly Bill 2127, which will allow employees and employers flexibility in work schedules. It will help accommodate workers' diverse family obligations, personal pursuits, commuting issues and environmental concerns.

The Small Business Family Scheduling Option would allow a small employer to agree to an employee's request to work an alternative work schedule. This bill applies exclusively to businesses with 25 or fewer employees that are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Union employees and their employers would not be affected by the new options being offered in AB 2127. If a small employer enters into a collective bargaining agreement subsequent to entering into an alternative workweek agreement, the California Labor Code mandates the collective bargaining agreement would apply instead.

Under current labor laws, and following Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders, employers can institute alternative work schedules only if a supermajority of affected employees agree to the arrangement by secret ballot. Then, all employees in the unit are subject to the alternative scheduling. Any deviation from the rigidly controlled process voids the election and subjects the employer to potential lawsuits that can seek up to three years of back overtime pay for affected workers, along with huge penalties and fines.

The bill contains important employee protections:

The request must be made voluntarily by the employee and put in writing.

The employer is required to maintain a copy of the written agreement for three years beyond termination of the agreement.

Either the employee or the employer can revoke the agreement at any time, provided seven days written notice is given.

Any hours worked beyond the compressed workweek hours must be paid at normal overtime rates.

The employer is prohibited from reducing the employee's regular rate of pay as a result of adopting an alternative work schedule.

There are many benefits of the Small Business Family Scheduling Option, including:

Providing up to 50 extra nonwork days each year for the average full-time employee who works a compressed four-day workweek

Satisfying employee demands for flexible schedules

Reducing traffic and frequency of long commutes at peak hours, which diminish our quality of life. These employees can spend less time in their car and more time at home.

Reducing carbon emissions with fewer trips to the workplace. The California Air Resources Board Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee draft report suggests that flexible working hours would result in a 10 percent reduction in emissions if 10 percent of employees use the schedule. Traffic congestion and emissions of priority air pollutants also would be reduced.

A more flexible work life is good for your health. Researchers reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that if people have the ability to compress workweeks, they are more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices, to exercise more and to sleep better.

For these and other reasons, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce supports AB 2127.

Madison is the president and chief executive officer of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.