When “Flex Time” Means Ripping Off Workers

“Flexibility” is a slippery word.

To advocates of family-friendly work policy, it means having the ability to have some choice in how you work, where you work, and when you work — without putting your job or your career prospects in jeopardy.

For the fortunate, generally white-collar and well-educated workers who have access to this sort of flexibility, it means being able to work from home, take time off for parent-teacher conferences, or perhaps temporarily cut back to a reduced work week.

For low-wage workers, however, flexibility all too often means being at the beck and call of employers. These workers can be — and often are — sent home on a moment’s notice (and without pay) when business is slow. They are told to cancel long-scheduled personal days if business picks up, and are sometimes threatened with immediate firing if they can’t stay late at work for last-minute overtime because they need to get home to their families.

This article was originally published in TIME.