Modernizing our Laws to Fit the 21st Century Workplace

As technology transforms the workplace, companies look for ways to compete in a global work environment, and new generations of employees put a higher value on having control over when and where they do their work, flexible work arrangements have become an increasingly important offering.   

To educate human resource professionals, and their organizations, about the importance of effective and flexible workplaces, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has formed a multiyear partnership with the Families and Work Institute (FWI)  to helps employer create effective and flexible workplaces that fit the 21st century workforce and keep organizations competitive in a global economy.

If today’s workforce expects companies to adjust the way they do business, U.S. policies need to change. Many of these policies have not kept pace with the shifts over the past decades that have transformed the U.S. from a production economy to a knowledge economy.  Policies must now be modernized to meet the present – and future – needs of our employers and employees.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is an example of this. Enacted in 1938, this law ensures an adequate standard of living for all Americans by guaranteeing the payment of a minimum wage and overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. However, its rigid requirements and high fines for mistakes are stunting companies’ efforts to provide the flexible work arrangements their employees want or even to accommodate the ways that technology has transformed when and how work is done. 

FLSA prevents employers from letting their employees work long hours one week in exchange for time off in subsequent weeks, offering Results-Oriented Work Environments. In general, it creates a compliance nightmare for companies and their human resources departments. 

This is why SHRM is urging Congress to update this law to allow for a comprehensive workplace flexibility policy that responds to the diverse needs of employees and employers and reflects different work environments, union representation, industries and organizational size. SHRM is committed to working with Congress to modernize the FLSA in a way that balances the needs of both employees and employers and does not produce unnecessary and counterproductive requirements.

On Thursday, Nobumichi Hara, Senior Vice President of Human Capital for Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona and a member of SHRM, testified before the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and urged them on behalf of SHRM to rethink FLSA for the 21st century. Read his full testimony here

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