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What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in order to eliminate labor conditions that were detrimental to the health and welfare of workers, including children. The FLSA has four major components: a minimum wage requirement, overtime pay requirements, child labor restrictions, and record keeping directives.


Although the FLSA is broad-sweeping legislation, there are a number of exceptions to its coverage. For example, the FLSA protects employees but not independent contractors. Also, the wage and hour requirements of the FLSA do not apply to executive, administrative, or professional employees. Certain workers in the computer industry are exempted from coverage under the FLSA. In many instances, agricultural, seasonal, and certain household employers are not subject to the requirements of the FLSA.

Minimum Wage

Under the FLSA, most employees engaged in commerce are to receive a prescribed minimum wage. Under the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, the federal minimum wage has been set at $5.85 per hour as of July 24, 2007, and has been scheduled to increase to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008, and to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.
Overtime Pay

The FLSA also prohibits employers from requiring employees to work more than 40 hours per week, unless the employees are paid at a rate equal to one and one-half times their regular pay. As with the rest of the FLSA, a number of exceptions have been carved out of this requirement.

Child Labor Restrictions

The child labor provisions of the FLSA were designed to eliminate "oppressive child labor." They were also designed to keep children in school. Under the FLSA, most children under the age of 16 may not be employed during regular school hours or in mining or manufacturing operations. They also may not be employed for more than a set number of hours each day or week.

The United States Department of Labor keeps of list of occupations that are deemed to be "particularly hazardous" to children. Employers may not hire any child under the age of 18 to work in these hazardous jobs, which include meat packing and roofing. Different rules apply to agricultural employers, including parents who employ their children to work on a family farm.


Every employer subject to any provision of the FLSA is required to keep records of all of its employees and the wages, hours, and other conditions and practices of its employment practices. The records are to be maintained and made available to the United States Secretary of Labor upon request.