California Unions' Double Standard on Flex Time

State's rigid overtime rules squelch choice and innovation while politically connected unions are exempt.


California legislators routinely tout our state's economic prospects by noting its success in spawning innovative technology and "green" industries. That may be true, but these and other companies must struggle under a labor code designed more for fast-food workers and last century's assembly lines.

At issue are California's rigid overtime rules, which require companies to pay hourly employees time-and-one-half not only for time worked in excess of 40 hours a week — but for time worked beyond eight hours each day. As the state's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement declares, "Eight hours of work constitutes a day's work … ." But what works in the view of a Sacramento bureaucracy isn't necessarily what works for others.

"What I see a lot — a young mom or dad who wants to coach a soccer team and work four days a week," said employment attorney Michael Kalt of Wilson Turner & Kosmo in San Diego. The parent wants an individualized schedule, but to do so under current law means gaining two-thirds approval by the entire work "unit" and filing paperwork with the state. It means involving many employees in one employee's personal situation.

Yet an effort last year to allow for such "flextime" and free California from Industrial Revolution-era thinking on this matter was crushed by organized labor in an Assembly committee. Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee) is bringing back a similar measure this session called the Workplace Flexibility Act of 2015. "It's surprising to many that California statute actually prohibits the option for most employers and employees to select alternative work schedules, which includes flextime, part-time, job sharing, telecommuting and compressed work weeks," Jones wrote to potential co-sponsors.

As the Assembly analysis for last year's effort explained, "The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO argues that the reality is that it is the employer who has the most to gain, a significant financial incentive, in moving an employee from daily overtime to weekly overtime." Yet unions promote a double standard.

The Labor Project for Working Families, which included the labor federation's leader on its board, views flextime as an important option: "The flexibility that professionals and managers take for granted remain far beyond the reach of 70 million wage earners." Such flexibility, it says, promotes better education, health and family life.

So California unions demand flextime for their members even though they oppose it for everyone else. A recent court decision declared that collective-bargaining agreements can trump overtime law, which helps explain the hypocrisy. Unions lobby to maintain unwieldy rules, but union members are free to negotiate their way around them. This is more about promoting union membership than protecting workers' choices.

California is one of only three states with such inflexible rules, which were signed into law in 2000 by Gov. Gray Davis (D).

"It's a competitive issue," said Robert Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. "Companies have flexibility with employees in other states. Here, they don't have that flexibility. So what are they going to do? … It's a job-determinant issue."

Sure, there are overtime exemptions for professionals, salespeople, administrators and other categories of professional workers, but the formulas are complex and company categorizations are subject to second-guessing not only by state officials, but by trial lawyers. "It's an open invitation for litigation," Lapsley added.

The new flextime bill would require an employee to fill out a state-created form recognizing "that work performed in excess of 10 hours in a day or in excess of 40 hours in a week is required to be compensated" at overtime rates. It would include a description of the specific flextime plan. The employee would have to certify the decision is "voluntary."

This sticks in my craw. Do we really need state officials policing these types of private workplace arrangements? Are Californians incapable of knowing what's best for themselves and their families?

This is a modest bill, yet it's unlikely to get traction given the union-friendly politics of the Capitol. Still, it would be nice if legislators recognized that innovative companies need more than rhetoric. They need some flexibility and freedom.

NEXT: Forget Scott Walker's ISIS/Unions Comments: Today's Republican Foreign Policy Scandal Is That GOP Elites Still Agitate for Pre-Emptive War

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  1. On the plus side, Obamacare as incentivized employers away from even a 40-hour work week.

    1. 32 hours a week is sort of a flex schedule, and it’s already government approved. Heck, they practically force some employers that way.

  2. Are cut backs at Reason resulting in one Friday Funnies posted every two weeks?

    1. Let’s hope so.


      1. They’re still waiting on the FCC to approve this week’s funny.

        1. Ha ha HAAA

      2. Let’s hope so.


        Except they’re using the money they saved on Funnies to buy Richman articles.

        1. Can’t they just spend it on hookers and blow?

          1. That would be a much better use.

        2. One Friday Funnies is worth more than a couple thousand Richman articles.

            1. Cake or death?

              1. Mmmmm….cake

                *SLAP!* again

            2. They’re both better than a Richman piece. Been coming here every Friday for my Friday Funnies funny for a very long time. Now what to do…

    2. They ran out of labels.

      1. Now that’s funny. Ha ha haa

  3. Do we really need state officials policing these types of private workplace arrangements?

    Hell, no! It should be done by *federal* officials!

  4. Necrosis has set in and infection is spreading to relatively healthy tissue. If the patient is to be saved, California will have be amputated immediately.

    1. Lex Luthor was a visionary.

  5. Internet must stay free and open, FCC decides

    Net neutrality simply means treating all Web traffic the same. Also known as open Internet, the concept is that all content should be equally easy to access, without service providers blocking some websites and services or favoring others.

    Read more here:…..rylink=cpy

    Open internet backers declare victory. I missed the shitstorm here yesterday where the Preppers all wrongly declare this as a “government takeover” or death panel.

    1. free and open, FCC decides


      1. Let us try again. Free and open. From the group that refused to show the rules they were voting on until after they voted. Sounds open, right. Also, was there a chance that the internet was not going to remain free and open? What problem is the FCC trying to fix? No Palin’s, they have something bad planned, otherwise they would have released the info on what they were doing.

        1. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that my internet is fine today and you’re right to be skeptical of government. But the states/counties and corporations are more likely to “censor” than the Feds – see Larry Flynt.

          1. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that my internet is fine today and you’re right to be skeptical of government.

            I expect it is. The government does not move fast, but they never stop. How is a corporation going to censor another corporation? If there is enough demand, someone will fill it, unless the government gets involved, like now.

            1. We’ll see.

              We can agree that an open internet is a good thing and we should be skeptical of government.

              If some right-wing fundie group wants to censor the internet someday then they will find a way with or without this law.

              1. We can agree that an open internet is a good thing and we should be skeptical of government.

                Open internet is good, I agree. “Skeptical,” no. I do not trust them as far as I can throw them. Anytime the government hides what it is doing, it is not going to be good. And right wing fundie groups can not censor anything, unless they are government. The left has been trying to decades and has not succeeded, even though they have the government on their side. So that is silly to think it could happen.

                1. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” –Sir Ernest John Pickstone Benn

              2. Open and free= ask government for permission.

              3. Hey, ‘open internet’ means different things to different people.

                *You* like the rich to ‘pay there fair share’, so why do you support a policy that will allow a rich company like NetFlix to mooch of the little people paying for ISP service?

                You do know that those network upgrades that Netflix depends upon don’t come for free and not that ISP’s can’t charge the *content provider* for upgrading infrastructure they’re going to pass those costs onto the consumer, right?

                Oh, and do you like Comcast? Because you pretty much guaranteed their *current* business model will not be changed. At least until enough of a public uproar arises to get *politicians* to act (ala *governmetn* breaking the *government* given Bell monopoly).

                Speaking of government locking in business models – how do you think competition and innovation will work if you have to apply to a government regulator for any variance in the established provision model?

                All this, ALL THIS!, to solve a theoretical future problem that, if it was likely, would have already happened (as ‘slow lanes’ are currently *legal* – if ISP’s thought this was a good money-maker they would have done it a decade ago).

                But hey, go ahead and crow – a government agency has taken over an industry and they haven’t screwed it up in a single day. Really something to rejoice about.

          2. Your internet was fine yesterday too. Pretty lame logic.

            Re government censorship, see Snowden.

    2. So they’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. Mmmmm, OK.

      1. Sarc, the best way to fix a problem is to create it first. Then you can fix it. Funny how Palin’s thinks there is nothing wrong with a group passing rules in secret means nothing is going to change.

        1. But shriek’s retarded, so – duh

    3. We were all aware of the BS reason they were telling us it’s necessary. It’s just that we don’t buy it, and don’t see why they need 332 pages to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Why have a ministry of truth. We all like truth right? Just like neutrality sounds like neato and stuff.

    4. “Open internet”

      Why not call it happy rainbow internet? Who could possibly be against happy rainbows?

    5. Net neutrality simply means treating all Web traffic the same.

      which is stupid

      1. Also impossible. Also completely counterproductive.

    6. you have no idea what you are talking about. get lost.

      1. (that was directed to Buttplug)

  6. Hi Steven,

    I’ve been working in high tech for almost a decade in California and didn’t know that this law existed. I have to say, I have two young kids and never feel that bad about leaving the office to pick up the kids from daycare. What I do know is that there are a lot of people in my industry that routinely work 60 hours/week– much longer than the boss– and get paid for 40 hours. Moreover, the people that work in our company in Europe *get compensated* when they work longer than 40 hours– even if they are professionals. If the choice is the former where I don’t get paid for my overtime and the latter where I get a 75% bonus… well, I’m a socialist parasite… So you know what my choice is.

    Steven if you work 50 hrs/wk writing article for mr. Koch wouldn’t it be nice to get paid the last 10 hours at time-and-a-half? I guess the joys of pleasuring right-wing octogenarians are reward enough.

    1. Yea but you stole your mortgage from the taxpayers, so fuck off.

      1. Fuck you AS, die screaming.

    2. None of what you said has anything to do with the article. You brought up hours worked per week not per day.

      1. Sorry, I just checked. My counterparts are unionized and by their collective bargaining agreement they can only work more than 8 hours under exceptional circumstances and have to be awarded compensation time. So it does have to do with the article

        1. Then take it up with the union.

          No one here has a problem with a business/employee agreeing to an 8hr day/40hr week.

          We just have a problem with it being enforced as a one size fits all measure by the government.

          And if your company *is* (which I doubt) violating their contract with their employees, you have *multiple* avenues of recourse, *starting* with the union and then civil suit.


          1. As I said, it’s my counterparts that are unionized– not I. If only.

            A lot of your libertarian friends aren’t as blas? about unions and the ability to organize if your boss sucks or vote for people who represent you that aren’t going to automatically side with corporate interests over the interests of workers. So, I guess you are kind of part of the revisionist line in the cult. Better check your ways.

            1. No, libertarians are against people being *forced* to support those unions and accept those rules.

              There’s a huge difference, one I know you can’t appreciate since, to us, the use of *state coercion* matters.

            2. american socialist|2.27.15 @ 1:18PM|#
              …”If only.”…
              Go find a place to work that’s unionized; I hope you find one that pays $5/hr.

    3. a lot of people in my industry that routinely work 60 hours/week– much longer than the boss– and get paid for 40 hours.

      Boo. Fucking. Hoo. Welcome to the real world sparky. That’s the trade off for having a guaranteed set paycheck and not being at the whim of whatever manager doesn’t want their hourly employees to work more than x hours.

    4. What I do know is that there are a lot of people in my industry that routinely work 60 hours/week– much longer than the boss– and get paid for 40 hours.

      Too bad they’re locked into that job against their will.

      Moreover, the people that work in our company in Europe *get compensated* when they work longer than 40 hours– even if they are professionals.

      I’m sure they’re not gaming that system at all, right?

    5. american socialist|2.27.15 @ 9:51AM|#
      Hi dipshit,
      …”What I do know is that there are a lot of people in my industry that routinely work 60 hours/week– much longer than the boss– and get paid for 40 hours.”

      Assholes who cheat others ought to get paid half of anyone else, so maybe you’re getting what you earned.

    6. What I do know is that there are a lot of people in my industry that routinely work 60 hours/week– much longer than the boss– and get paid for 40 hours.

      No, they don’t. *Especially* in CA.

      What they do is get paid a *salary*, which is a sum of money to *do a job no matter how long it takes*. Salaried employees work until the job is done – that’s it. They’re called ‘exempt’ employees.


      1. Whatever you call it, that means people are working more than 40 hrs a week. If unions negotiate a better contract or spend money to get people to vote for politicians that are going to support unions then why should I care about that? Freedom of association and freedom of speech aren’t just for corporate lackies.

        1. But why is it important if they’re working more than 40 hours a week?

          What’s special about the 40 hour mark?

        2. “If you can’t get it done in 8 hours, you probably don’t know what you’re doing.” -some guy somewhere

        3. Salaried socialists make a lot of money.
          I’d say you’re a greedy capitalist and just can’t admit it to yourself.

    7. Moreover, the people that work in our company in Europe *get compensated* when they work longer than 40 hours– even if they are professionals.

      Yeah, they get ‘comp-time’. If they’re lucky.

      I lived in Italy, ‘professionals’ get the same deal there they get here.

    8. I work greater than forty hours every week. I like that my employer values my services and assigns more than 32 hours per week of projects. We compete against other firms for business. I imagine if there were one that paid more than us and didn’t work as hard then they would lose contracts to us. Oh wait, that has happened. And they had to lay off people because we got the contract. I enjoy what I do so putting in extra time and effort ensures a better product so that helps ensure future business.

      I don’t need a union to “protect” me from my employer. I am an adult. I am free to go elsewhere if I am disatisfied.

      I also didn’t need a union to help me pay off my mortgage. Even though I might not be getting paid for “extra” hours I have managed to so that before the age of forty.

  7. Adults in professional fields work the hours that are required to get the job done. Unless you have a policy of charging by the hour, like lawyers, etc.

    Also most hourly folks whether they work in factories or are skilled laborers (plumbers, carpenters, etc.) prefer to work 4 ten hour days.

    1. Plus, think of how much greener it would be if we only had to drive to work 4 times instead of 5.

      There are soo many advantages to working a longer day but shorter week.

      That’s even working a 50 hour week (12.5 a day), and I don’t know any ‘professionals’ who routinely put in less.

      Less traffic congestion
      Less money spent on gas
      Less pollution
      An extra day to sleep in

      But no, some factory workers 75 years ago were abused so the rest of us must suffer.

  8. I may get laughed out of the room here, but isn’t an employment contract between an employer and employee. Should they negotiate the terms/hours/pay between themselves. Why is the government involved AT ALL?

    1. Why do the police come to protect a rich man’s property? I say fuck him… Why should the government be involved at all?

      1. Exactly. You’re getting it. Privatize the police and courts.

        You may not be as socialist as you think you are.

        1. But commie kid is at least twice as stupid as most people think.

      2. I like how you used rich man with property. Insinuating that only rich men own property?

        1. Deep inside the well to do’s crybaby exterior is a ragingly green(jealous) capitalist PIG, who wants more of his already excessive share of the pie.

          If the whining blob makes a break and strikes it richer, it will demand special care from government services (like the police) since it’s self importance will be out of reach for the average human – having “fought” for it, and all.

          1. It will want tax breaks too. Sad thing is with a little training (e.g., Dave Ramsey) and self-control it could probably be finacially successful. But instead, it counts getting out of a mortgage via lawsuit as a win.

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  10. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing,,,,,,

  11. “Are Californians incapable of knowing what’s best for themselves and their families?”

    Given the idiots they keep voting into office the answer is obvious.

  12. For the workers, good news, the Google Bus Drivers have voted to Unionize.
    There is a ongoing trial in CA regarding worker discrimination – PAO v. Kleiner Perkins and it is not pretty to watch the boys in the business act like jerks.
    UBER was hacked and waited 5 months to notify individuals ( which in CA is breaking the law) – but “disrupt” and please ignore all the bad behavior by disrupter and their subcontractor Santander who has just settled a $9+ Million fine for “bad behavior’.

    Double standard – does Reason only support the Business Owners, regardless of bad behavior ( aka skrewing the employees)?

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