What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 is a federal law that governs important wage and hour standards for U.S. employees. It sets the minimum wage, establishes rules for overtime eligibility, regulates child labor, and determines employer recordkeeping requirements. The law applies to full-time and part-time employees working for private employers as well as federal, state, and local governments. The law also establishes posting requirements for U.S. employers.

 

The law was passed to address working conditions at the end of the Great Depression, a time when many companies force employees to work long hours for little pay in a hazardous environment.

 

Who Is Subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The FLSA applies to almost every business in the United States—those that have sales totaling $500,000 or more and those that are engaged in interstate commerce. Plus, any business that buys, makes, or sells goods is generally subject to the law, particularly in this age of the Internet. In fact, something as simple as sending mail or making a phone call to another state qualifies as interstate commerce. Only a few employers—most of them small and agricultural—are exempt from the FLSA.

 

Some employees are also exempt, even if their employer is covered. For example, executives, administrative workers, and professionals are exempt from the rules regarding the minimum wage and overtime pay. To qualify as exempt, these employees must earn at least $455 a week and meet other criteria. Computer programmers, software engineers, and others in a computer-related field may also be exempt, if they earn at least $455 per week or the equivalent of $27.63 per hour and meet specific duty requirements. Outside salespeople, companions for elderly people, babysitters, newspaper delivery workers, and seasonal employees of amusement parks or other recreational businesses are also exempt.

 

Additionally, employers should note that the law does not apply to independent contractors or apprentices.

 

What Is the Minimum Wage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The minimum wage is the minimum hourly wage that employers are required to pay employees. The first minimum wage established by the FLSA was $0.25 back in 1938—that’s the equivalent of $4.55 today.

 

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. Employees who live in states that have their own minimum wage laws must be paid the higher of the two wages. For example, in the State of Washington, the minimum wage is currently $12.00; therefore, Washington employees must be paid $12.00 per hour.

 

Tipped employees who receive more than $30.00 per month in tips must be paid at least $2.13 per hour in wages. The employee must earn at least the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 when their tips are combined with the $2.13 hourly rate.

 

Employees under the age of 20 must be paid at least $4.25 per hour during their first 90 days of work.

 

What Are the Overtime Requirements Under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The FLSA requires employers to pay certain employees overtime pay of time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. For example, an employee who earns $10.00 an hour and works 45 hours in a week is entitled to overtime pay of $75.00 on top of the employee’s regular wages.

 

The law does not limit the number of overtime hours that employees 16 and over can work, but it does specify that hours worked on weekends and holidays don’t count toward overtime unless the employee has already hit the 40-hour threshold.

 

What Are Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The law defines hours worked as any hours that an employee is on duty at the workplace. The definition covers time spent “on-call” on the employer’s premises and rest breaks (usually of 20 minutes or less); meal breaks (typically lasting 30 minutes or more) need not be paid. Travel time may be counted as hours worked if it is not time spent on an ordinary home-to-work commute. Certain other restrictions apply.

 

How Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Affect Nursing Mothers?

The FLSA requires employers to give nursing mothers reasonable breaks whenever they need to express breast milk for one year after their child is born. Employers must also set aside a private place—other than a bathroom—for new mothers to express milk.

 

How Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Affect Child Labor?

Employees who are age 18 and older may perform any job. Minors who are age 16 or 17 may perform any non-hazardous job without any hour restrictions.

 

Minors who are 14 or 15 years old may work outside of school hours in certain industries except manufacturing, mining, and other hazardous industries. They should work no more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, or 8 hours on a non-school day. Employers should be aware that there are other hourly restrictions that apply to minors.

 

What Records Must Employers Keep Under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The FLSA requires employers to keep specific wage and hour records for employees, including the following:

 

  • Basic personal information, including their name and address, among other things
  • The hour and day when the workweek starts
  • The total hours they work on each workday and during each workweek
  • Their total daily or weekly earnings
  • Their regular hourly pay rate
  • Their total overtime pay for the workweek
  • Any additions to or deductions from their wages
  • The total wages paid each pay period
  • The date of payment

 

These records must be kept for at least three years. Employers of exempt employees and in certain industries may be required to keep additional records.

 

How to Comply With the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Posting Requirements

Every employer subject to the FLSA must post information about the federal minimum wage where employees can readily see it. The poster must provide additional details about overtime pay, child labor, tip credits, breaks for nursing mothers, and enforcement of the law.

 

Failure to post the required information can lead to fines and penalties. Therefore, employers must make sure they have the latest version of the FLSA poster available to all employees.

 

You can order the latest copy of our Federal Labor Law Poster, which includes the FLSA poster along with all the other required federal employment law posters: the Equal Employment Opportunity law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

 

Call us at (800) 322-3636 or visit our website to get answers to your questions about your posting requirements under federal and state labor laws.