NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Labor Law Unfair to Working Mothers

August 30, 2001

The nation's work schedule is still governed primarily by the Fair Labor Standards Act passed back in 1938. Since then, women have flocked to the workplace. But few revisions have been made in the law and experts say its provisions discriminate against working women -- particularly working mothers, and women who care for elderly parents and other family members.

According to a new report from Denise Venable with the National Center for Policy Analysis' Women in the Economy project, provisions of the law governing the work schedule are most in need of updating.

  • The FLSA mandated a federal minimum wage and established an eight-hour work day -- with overtime pay of 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for any hours over 40 worked in a week.
  • Between 1976 and 1998, the proportion of women working overtime rose from 14 percent to 21.6 percent.
  • According to the Families and Working Institute, working mothers are 83 percent more likely to take time off to care for a child than are fathers.
  • So although working mothers need flexibility in their working schedules, the FLSA's strict overtime regulations deny them that.

A major provision in the 1997 Family Friendly Workplace Act would have allowed employees to work 80 hours over a two-week period in any combination -- under which any hours worked over 40 in one week could be saved and used toward paid leave later. And compensatory time-and-a-half off in lieu of overtime pay would be allowed -- with the caveat that it must be taken within the same year or it would revert back to overtime pay.

But union bosses nixed the reform.

Now Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) have introduced another bill that seeks to meet labor's objections. Supporters say that failure to reform the overtime provisions of the FLSA will continue to make it more difficult for most women to meet the demands of a career and family.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Labor Laws Discriminate Against Women," Washington Times, August 30, 2001.


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