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New Law In New Hampshire Protects Employees Who Request “Flex Time” Schedules

New Hampshire employers should be aware that their state recently became the second state (following Vermont) to pass a law prohibiting employers from penalizing employees who request flexible work schedules. The legislation went into effect on September 1, 2016.

This statute is part of a continuing trend of new statutory employment protections for workers, on the federal, state, and local levels. Many of these protections – highlighted by the paid sick leave laws that numerous states and municipalities have enacted in recent years – strengthen employees’ ability to adjust their schedules to attend to important personal and family matters. The New Hampshire statute appears to have a similar goal.

Provisions Of Statute

The new statute itself is quite brief, providing as follows:

Flexible Working Arrangement. No employer shall retaliate against any employee solely because the employee requests a flexible work schedule. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require any employer to accommodate a flexible work schedule. Nothing in this section shall be construed to create a cause of action for failure to provide a flexible work schedule at an employee’s request.

Notably, the law does not define a “flexible work schedule,” or create a private right of action for an employee who believes that his or her employer has violated the statute. Instead, it appears that an employee must file a complaint with the New Hampshire Labor Commissioner, who may investigate and impose a penalty on an offending employer.

Likewise, the statute does not mandate that an employer agree to an employee’s request for a flexible work schedule. Instead, it simply allows an employee to make such a request without fear of negative consequence.

Recommendations For Employers

In light of this new law, we recommend that employers in New Hampshire carefully review the statute, ensure that all supervisors, managers and HR personnel are aware of its requirements, and, if necessary, adjust their policies and practices to ensure compliance.

Outside of New Hampshire (and Vermont), the extent to which similar laws may be enacted in other states remains unclear. Nonetheless, in light of evolving workplace norms and employee expectations in this area, all employers, regardless of location, would be wise to welcome such requests and try to accommodate them, when feasible. Developing and implementing formal, written policies, with the assistance of experienced employment counsel, is an important way of ensuring that this is done in a systematic, consistent manner.

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Please let us know if you have questions about the New Hampshire statute or flexible-scheduling issues generally. Our employment attorneys routinely field such requests and would be happy to help.