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Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Explained

Knowing the particular provisions outlined by the Act is benefitial to almost every worker.
  • Jun 21, 2011
  • Staff
  • Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938, but since then it has been amended many times and remains an extremely important piece of legislation in the United States. Though this statute sets the standard for minimum wage, overtime, child labor and recordkeeping requirements, many employees are unaware of the protections provided by this law. With this in mind, the following aims to answer a few important questions for those wishing to learn about their rights under the FLSA.

First, who is covered under the FLSA? All employees that work in interstate commerce, produce goods for interstate commerce, or handle goods that have been produced for such commerce are covered by the FLSA. Those companies covered are ones whose annual gross volume of sales is over $500,000; or those which are engaged in the care or education of the sick, aged, mentally ill or physically disabled; or those which are a preschool, elementary school, or institution of higher education; or those that function as public agencies. Domestic service workers are also covered if they meet certain wage and hours worked requirements. Under these specifications, most workers in the United States are covered.

Under the FLSA, there is also something called an exemption. If an employee fulfills certain criteria, he or she may be considered an exempt employee and therefore ineligible for overtime pay and other benefits. There are many exemptions which may include executives and administrators; farmworkers; employees in a seasonal recreational establishment; casual babysitters; and certain domestic service employees. There are also partial-exemptions, so determining exempt and non-exempt employees is not always black and white.

Second, what does the FLSA do? The FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees at least the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hr) and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay for every hour worked over 40 in a single workweek. For nonagricultural operations, it restricts the hours that children under age 16 can work and forbids the employment of children under age 18 in certain jobs deemed too dangerous. For agricultural operations, it prohibits the employment of children under age 16 during school hours and in certain jobs deemed too dangerous.

Third, how can I ensure that my employer is abiding by the FLSA? The most crucial step in ensuring that you are being treated properly by your employer is to stay educated on the relevant laws. To become more familiar with the specific provisions of national labor laws, the US Department of Labor has published an extremely useful FLSA reference guide. While the FLSA is a national statute and sets standards for the entire country, every state may enact their own legislation that imposes new restrictions. Therefore, it is also important to stay up-to-date on your state labor laws. If you learn these laws and have any reason to believe that your employer is not sufficiently following them, you should seek the counsel of a wage and hour lawyer to determine if you are being justly compensated as an employee.

Labor laws can be confusing, and many employees may question whether they are receiving the compensation they are entitled to by law. If you believe that your employer may be violating the FLSA or any other employment laws, contact an experienced FLSA lawyer to see if you qualify to receive back wages for unpaid overtime or under-payment.