SHRM Urges Lawmakers to Update Fair Labor Standards Act

Jul 14, 2011
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Nobumichi Hara

Out-of-date law prevents employers from providing nonexempt employees popular flexible benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 14, 2011 – The 73-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act needs to be modernized to allow employers greater flexibility to meet the demands of the current workforce, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) told the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections today.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) "reflects the realities of the industrial workplace of the1930s and not the workplace of the 21st century," said Nobumichi Hara, a human resource executive and SHRM member. "Minimum-wage policies and overtime exemption requirements, which may have been appropriate in the 1930s, are out of step with the current knowledge- and technology-based economy, creating unnecessary regulatory burdens for employers and restricting employers’ ability to be flexible and address contemporary employee needs."

Speaking on behalf of SHRM, the world’s largest HR association, Hara told members of the subcommittee that the FLSA does not permit employers to provide the workplace flexibility benefits — flextime, telecommuting and compressed workweeks, for example — that millions of nonexempt employees (or hourly workers) want.

"While nonexempt employees can receive time-and-a-half pay, they cannot be afforded the same workplace flexibility benefits as exempt employees," he added.

Testifying at a hearing titled “The Fair Labor Standards Act: Is It Meeting the Needs of the Twenty-First Century Workplace?,” Hara — senior vice president of human capital for Goodwill of Central Arizona in Phoenix — used his own 2,000-employee workplace as an example of an organization hamstrung by the FLSA. He explained that a request for bi-weekly compressed workweeks by a group of Goodwill employees was complicated because of burdens imposed on Goodwill by the FLSA.

Reform of the FLSA, he said, would encourage employers to better meet the needs of their employees.

SHRM, which represents 260,000 HR professionals in large and small organizations from every industry in every congressional district in the United States, is an advocate for a comprehensive workplace flexibility policy. In 2009, SHRM released a set of “Principles for a 21st Century Workplace Flexibility Policy” to help guide policymakers in the development of public policy that meets the needs of both employees and employers. The Society is engaged in a significant effort to educate HR professionals and their organizations about the importance of effective and flexible workplaces.

But "Altering how, when and where work gets done in today's modern workplace also raises compliance concerns with the FLSA," Hara noted.

The Society committed to members of the subcommittee to work 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.

SHRM's full testimony is available online at

Media: For more information, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Affairs at 703-535-6260 and or Jennifer Hughes at 703-535- 6072 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at or follow SHRM @SHRMPress.

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