On Thursday, November 2, 2017, Mimi Walters (R-California), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), and Elise Stefanik (R-New York) introduced in the House of Representatives the Workplace in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4219). The bill would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to include a voluntary option for employers to provide employees with guaranteed paid leave and qualified flexible workplace arrangements.
The bill would exempt employers from having to comply with the patchwork of state and local paid leave laws if they voluntarily offer employees a minimum level of paid time off and at least one of the following flexible working arrangements: compressed work schedule, biweekly work program, telecommuting program, job-sharing program, or a flexible or predictable schedule. Employees would not be required to adopt a flexible work schedule in order to receive paid leave.
The minimum amount of paid leave that an employer would be required to provide under the plan depends on the size of the employer and the employee’s length of service. The minimum amount of compensable leave provided to an employee each year cannot be fewer than the minimum days as follows:
|Number of employees employed by an employer||Minimum number of compensable days of leave per plan year|
|Employees with 5 or more years of service with the employer||Employees with fewer than 5 years of service with the employer|
|1000 or more||20 days||16 days|
|250 to 999||18 days||14 days|
|50 to 249||15 days||13 days|
|Less than 50||14 days||12 days|
Under the bill, employers would be mandated to offer paid leave to both part time and full time employees, with prorated minimum leave requirements for part-time employees based on the number of hours they work. Only employees who have been employed for at least 12 months by the employer and have worked at least 1,000 hours during the previous 12 months would be eligible for a workflex arrangement. Employers would be responsible for the cost of the paid leave.
Several states and local jurisdictions have adopted their own paid leave laws. The Workplace in the 21st Century Act would preempt state and local paid leave laws for employers located within those jurisdictions. The bill would not affect state or local laws on unpaid leave or the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Ultimately, the bill, if passed, will have no immediate effect on employers located in jurisdictions with no paid leave mandate (such as Ohio). However, for employers in jurisdictions with more restrictive paid leave mandates, the Workplace in the 21st Century Act would provide another option to meet paid leave requirements if they adopt the voluntary plan. The bill was immediately referred to the House Education and the Workforce committee and its future is unknown. Frantz Ward will keep close track of the bill and provide updates on the Workplace in the 21st Century Act’s progress. The full text of the Workplace in the 21st Century Bill is available here.