California Labor Code 511, as well as Industrial Welfare Commission orders, governs alternative workweek schedules. They both define alternative workweek schedules as any regularly scheduled workweek that requires more than eight hours in a 24 hour period. The current labor code allows an alternative work schedule to be created by secret ballot election of at least two thirds of the employees in an identifiable work unit like a division or a department. AB 907, introduced by Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, aimed to eliminate this secret ballot election requirement for employees to request an alternative workweek and partially change California overtime rules. It was defeated in the first week of January 2014. Opponents don’t want any changes to the current overtime pay after eight hours worked in any 24 hour period.
Connie Conway introduced the bill in February 2013 in an attempt to get rid of the complicated alternative workweek election process and give employees more flexibility with their work schedules. Although the California Restaurant Association supported the bill in front of the Assembly Labor Committee, it was voted down because of Democrats concerns about employers pushing low-paid workers to take comp time instead of overtime pay if enacted. The bill would have allowed employees to work four 10 hour days in the workweek without receiving overtime pay as they do now for any hours over eight in a workday. Eight similar bills dating back to 2003 all failed the same as AB 907.
Trade associations supported the bill and unions were against it. The California Hospital Association, California Restaurant Association, California Grocers Association and the California Retailers Association were among supporters. Supporters proposed that the bill provides flexibility to workers and small businesses alike, reflecting the reality of modern life. Unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, California Nurses Association, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and International Longshore & Warehouse Union are among those that opposed. Opponents strongly believe the bill undermined wage and hour protections for workers and was skewed in favor of employers.
The U.S. Department of Commerce describes two kinds of alternative work schedules: compressed work schedules and flexible work schedules. Compressed work schedules fit the work schedule into a shorter timeframe than the traditional five day 40-hour work week, usually four 10-hour days. Flexible work schedules fix the work schedule into core hours and flexible time bands, all involving non-overtime hours. Core hours are set hours that an employee must be at work, while flexible time bands allow varying arrival and departure times. Alternative workweek schedules can be difficult to administer without time and attendance software that tracks and automates employee schedules and hours and days worked. Employers can more easily manage alternative workweek policies with a system that offers automated control rather than depending on manual processes.
If business hours of operation fall outside of the nine-to-five Monday through Friday traditional workweek schedule, alternative work schedules can make sense for both employers and employees. A good understanding of scheduling and payroll policies, good communication and a good time and attendance system make it easier to provide the scheduling that’s best for business as well as employee work/life balance.
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