What Is the Fair Labor Standards (FLSA) Act?

Posted December 21st, 2023.

Categories: Blog.

boss and employee

Foundational to United States wage and hour law, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 arose from early twentieth-century attempts at work reforms. Although Senator Hugo Black originally intended to institute a thirty-hour workweek with his first attempt at this bill in 1932, Congress finally passed a revised version six years later.

This blog post will summarize the Fair Labor Standards Act, giving you important background information should you ever need to challenge your employer on topics like minimum and overtime wage. Please don’t delay and contact a Camden County employment law attorney immediately if you have any questions.

What Does the FLSA Regulate and Who Is Covered by It?

The Fair Labor Standards Act created a minimum wage, set overtime pay valued at time and a half past forty hours a week (though the hours are counted differently state by state), and prohibited child labor.

Employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards are those who “are engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or who are employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.”

There are several exemptions for different kinds of employers, however. Employers with less than $500,000 of business or in gross sales per year are exempt from these requirements, for instance. Still other exceptions exist to remove the employer’s obligation to pay minimum wage, pay overtime, or keep certain records.

The most notable exemptions are “white collar” exemptions, which apply to professional, administrative, and executive positions. Movie theater workers are also exempt, as are independent contractors and volunteer workers, who are not “employees” under the FLSA definition.

To counteract the potentially wide breadth of these exemptions, employers are required to show that employees are “plainly and unmistakably” within the terms of the exemption. Furthermore, employers cannot incorrectly refer to their employees as “independent contractors” or “volunteers.” Court analysis considers the economic relationship between the alleged employer and the worker to conclude whether the worker is in fact an independent contractor or an employee.

A similar analysis is done by courts when deciding if a worker has joint employers who are concurrently responsible for different aspects of the work relationship. Farm workers, as an example, may be jointly employed by a contractor and a grower. In this scenario, the labor contractor would be responsible for such things as payroll and keeping track of hours, whereas the grower would be responsible for work quality and work volume.

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