The FLSA: A Brief Introduction

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The FLSA: A Brief Introduction

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), located at 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements for full-time and part-time employees in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. According to Department of Labor statistics, the FLSA’s provisions affect more than 130 million workers.

Purpose of the FLSA

The FLSA was intended to:

  • Prevent wage exploitation of vulnerable workers.
  • Promote fair competition in interstate commerce by leveling labor costs.
  • Generate jobs by encouraging employers to hire more employees rather than extending the hours of their existing workforces.

Congress has continued to amend the FLSA over the years to add provisions that regulate travel time (the Portal-to-Portal Act), women’s wages (the Equal Pay Act), and break periods for nursing mothers (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

Additionally, the FLSA prohibits performance of certain types of work in an employee’s home unless the employer has obtained prior certification from the Department of Labor. Restrictions apply in the manufacture of knitted outerwear, gloves and mittens, buttons and buckles, handkerchiefs, embroideries, and jewelry (where safety and health hazards are not involved). Employers wishing to employ homeworkers in these industries are required to provide written assurances to the Department of Labor that they will comply with the FLSA wage and hour requirements, among other things. The FLSA also generally prohibits manufacture of women’s apparel (and jewelry under hazardous conditions) in the home except under special certificates that may be issued when the employee cannot adjust to factory work because of age or disability (physical or mental), or must care for a disabled individual in the home.

What the FLSA Does Not Cover

While the FLSA does set basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards and regulates the employment of minors, there are a number of practices that the FLSA does not regulate. For example, the FLSA does not require:

  • Vacation, holiday, or sick pay.
  • Meal or rest periods (except break periods for nursing mothers).
  • Holidays off or vacations.
  • Premium pay for weekend or holiday work.
  • Pay raises or fringe benefits.
  • A discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages to terminated employees.
  • Pay stubs or W-2s.

The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an employee’s usual or promised wages or for commissions in excess of those required by the FLSA. In addition, the FLSA does not limit the number of hours in a day, or days in a week, an employee may be required or scheduled to work, including overtime hours, if the employee is at least 16 years old.

The FLSA does not excuse employers from the requirements of state and local laws. State laws may cover employers and employees not covered by the federal act or may provide greater protection for employees.