House subcommittee considers Walters’ workflex proposal

A subcommittee of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee on July 24 considered legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) that would allow employers to offer their employees paid leave and a flexible work arrangement on a voluntary basis.

The Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions heard witness testimonies regarding the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, H.R. 4219, which would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to establish a voluntary workflex option under which employers who provide flexible workplace arrangement plans that include a combination of paid leave and flexible work options are exempt from certain state and local laws regarding employee benefits, according to the congressional record summary.

“Our work and home lives are growing increasingly busier, placing a premium on our free time. My Workflex legislation would give hard-working Americans access to paid leave and flexible work schedules that will help them find a better work-life balance,” said Rep. Walters, who introduced H.R. 4219 on Nov. 2, 2017. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is an original cosponsor of the proposal.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the full Education and the Workforce Committee, and Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) released a joint statement with Rep. Walters on H.R. 4219 following the subcommittee hearing.

Rep. Foxx said the bill “is the result of thoughtful, diligent work,” and Rep. Walters should be commended for introducing it.

“As a businesswoman herself, Congresswoman Walters knows the issue of workplace flexibility inside and out, and this legislation is a testament to her expert-level knowledge of the changing workplace,” said Rep. Foxx. “Mimi is a thorough and innovative lawmaker, and I am pleased the Education and Workforce Committee had the opportunity to take a closer look at her bill.”

Rep. Walberg pointed out that as the American workplace continues evolving, there has been rising costs in related compliance, administration and litigation that have resulted from “a confusing patchwork of paid-leave mandates from state to state.”

The congressman said H.R. 4219 is a win-win for businesses and their employees because the measure would provide U.S. employees “with the flexibility they desire when it comes to striking the right work-life balance.”

According to a summary from Rep. Walters’ office, employers participating in the voluntary federal workflex program under H.R. 4219 would be required to offer all full- and part-time employees paid leave and at least one of six workflex options, such as telework or flexible scheduling. Employees who didn’t participate in a workflex option still would receive paid leave.

“The rules of the workplace are changing,” Rep. Walters noted. “Employees want to be able to spend more time with their families, pursue their hobbies, and volunteer in their communities. Workflex allows employees to do just that, while working for an employer who understands their needs.”

Once the subcommittee takes action on the bill, H.R. 4219 will head back to the full House for a vote.