The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

This important and far-reaching law guarantees a worker's right to be paid fairly for the work performed. The FLSA establishes minimums for fair pay and hours. It is the single law most often violated by employers. The FLSA:
  • defines the 40 hour workweek
  • establishes the federal minimum wage
  • sets requirements for overtime
  • places restrictions on child labor.
The FLSA was passed in 1938 after the Depression, when many employers took advantage of the tight labor market to subject workers to horrible conditions and impossible hours. The FLSA has been amended many times and is full of exceptions and exemptions. Most of the revisions and interpretations have expanded the law's coverage, for example the FLSA now:
  • requires that male and female workers receive equal pay for equal work
  • applies to state and local hospitals and educational institutions
  • applies to most federal and state employees, political subdivisions and interstate agencies
  • sets out strict standards for determining, paying and accruing comp time time given off work instead of cash payments.

Who Is Covered

The FLSA applies only to employers whose annual sales total $500,000.00 or more, or who are engaged in interstate commerce. In effect, the law covers virtually all workplaces. This is because the courts have interpreted the term interstate commerce very broadly. For example, courts have ruled that companies that regularly use the U.S. mail to send or receive letters to and from other states are engaged in interstate commerce. Even the fact that employees use company telephones to place or accept interstate business calls has placed an employer under the FLSA.

Who Is Exempt

A few employers, including small farms those that use relatively little outside paid labor are explicitly exempt from the FLSA. In addition, some employees are exempt from the FLSA even though their employers are covered. The exemptions are often difficult to determine in that they must factor in the type of work performed, the salary paid, and the duties and obligations of the employee. Simply being paid a salary does not automatically exempt an employee from the FLSA.

Employers must also comply with all local, state and federal workplace laws that set higher standards. Due to the complex nature of the rules and regulations in this area, the assistance of an attorney is vital in determining both the obligations of an employer and the rights of an employee. Anyone with questions or concerns regarding the FLSA or other employment laws should seek the advice of a competent attorney.