On Friday, September 24, 2010, Democratic Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania and Thomas Harkins of Iowa introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act (S. 3840). Although the complete text of the bill has not been made available by the Government Printing Office, early indications are that the bill will seek to make it easier for employees to request flexible work hours and locations to accommodate their family obligations.

In a press release, Senator Casey acknowledged similar efforts by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and explained that this bill will ease the strain on families and help create flexible work options that can benefit both workers and employers. Specifically, Senator Casey intimates that the proposed flexibility means the employee will have greater control over when and where they can complete their work and will result in less turn over, higher morale and more productive employees.

Early highlights of the bill includes:

  • An employee’s right to request a modification of his or her hours, schedule, or work location;
  • Employees and employers will be required to engage in an interactive process to discuss the employee’s needs and how to address them with no or minimal disruption to the employer’s business; 
  • Employers who deny a request for modification must explain the grounds for the denial; 
  • Employees who make requests for a modification are protected from retaliation; 
  • Civil penalties can be assessed against any employer who discriminates against an employee for exercising any right granted under this legislation; 
  • Small businesses are exempt from the legislation; and 
  • The Department of Labor will develop regulations to smoothly administer the process, while ensuring the protection of employees’ legal rights. 

The bill is in its infant stages, however, as we have seen more and more, employers should expect continued emphasis on greater flexibility in the workplace including the use of alternate work arrangements. This is especially the case in disability accommodation cases and beyond, as is evident from this bill. 

More to come on this issue.