PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Pawtucket State Rep. Karen Alzate wants to open the conversation around how and when people work, including how the state defines “full time” and whether people who menstruate should get additional time off.
“How can we be more productive during the work week, but also prioritize our health and our well-being?” Alzate asked during a telephone interview with 12 News on Thursday.
One of Alzate’s proposals seeks to redefine “full time” for companies with 500 employees or more. The bill would require those companies to pay workers overtime if they clock in more than 32 hours a week. Similar bills have previously been introduced in New York, California and in Congress.
Various countries and states have been experimenting with the idea of a four-day work week, which studies have shown increases productivity and worker morale. Massachusetts is weighing a proposal to launch a pilot program for a four-day week, while Maryland lawmakers pulled a similar bill in favor of having the state’s Department of Labor study the idea.
Alzate said her legislation is meant as a jumping-off point. She said she doesn’t want to cut hourly workers’ pay, but also doesn’t want to burden businesses.
“Let’s get creative,” she added. “How can we still provide more time off while also still being productive?”
She has a similar thought process about another bill she’s sponsoring: the “Menstruation Leave Act,” which would entitle every menstruating employee to a monthly leave of up to three days. Businesses that don’t comply would be penalized with a fine.
“It’s more of a personal thing for me,” Alzate said, explaining that her own menstrual cycle has sometimes gotten in the way of her ability to work.
She also understands the conversation is not everyone’s cup of tea. Alzate’s own mother told her she hates the bill and believes such matters should be kept private.
“It’s not taboo,” Alzate countered. “We need to be talking about what happens to our bodies.”
Alzate said she took a look at a similar law in Spain. She hopes businesses, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community come to the table to weigh in on the proposal.
“I just want people to know this is a conversation starter,” she said. “Let’s have these conversations, because we’re not having them.”
At this time, neither bill has been scheduled for a committee hearing.