It’s a millennial world. This generation has crafted a new world and economy, using technology to customize, miniaturize, simplify and avoid human interaction. This extends to their view of the workplace, the role smartphones play in business and their desire to telecommute and work in non-conventional office spaces.
Millennials expect work to fit into their lives, rather than their lives to fit around work. As business adapts, the law needs to as well.
Existing law is based on a conventional five-day, 40-hour workweek. A true vestige of the past. We live in a world of four-day workweeks, flex-time and working from home. For a lot of people, 9 to 5 is dead, so why hasn’t the law caught up?
Labor law needs to get with the times. We must update the law to reflect this brave new world we live in.
We used to assume that people were driven by money, that they wanted to get paid. Nowadays the hot commodity is time, not just money. Employees don’t just want to get paid, they also want freedom. Employees want time to spend with their time with families, on hobbies, in nature, playing sports, vacationing or sitting around reading.
Recently, the California Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives have taken some small, positive steps towards adapting the law to the millennial world we live in.
California Assembly Bill 1173 would allow employees to request a flexible workweek during the holiday season. This would allow an employee to work more than 8 hours a day without incurring overtime, so long as they work less than 40 hours a week. Any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek would still incur overtime. This is a tiny toe dipped in the water towards allowing more flexible scheduling. Eventually employers will be able to give their employees what they want, freedom from the workplace without sacrificing paid hours, because they will not incur tremendous labor costs in doing so.
HR 1180, passed by the House of Representatives on May 2, would allow employees to opt to bank days of compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay. Employees who would otherwise not have received paid time off could bank paid time off. If an employee needs to take a personal day, he or she would be able to do so without it making a dent in their paycheck. Employees would also be able to cash out their days at any time.
AB 1173 and HR 1180 are examples of the types of legislation that we need to adapt to the new workplace. If passed, they will be good for employees who want more flexibility and choice without costing employers. It’s about time that the law starts treating employees the way employers wish to, as adults who can manage their own time and lives.
The unions and the people who say they represent the best interest of workers will oppose these changes because they are stuck in the past. They’re trying to protect their own power and way of working from 50 years ago. They don’t understand millennials and the future of the workplace.
VICA supports these two bills and hopes that other legislators take note. We need to legislate for the future, rather than allowing outdated laws to govern our ever-evolving workplaces.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.