Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), upheld by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for establishing Federal standards concerning minimum wage, overtime, child labor laws, and record keeping requirements.  Among the specifics of the document are how to calculate overtime hours, the Federal and state minimum wages, and which in cases and employee is exempt from its provisions.


Any hours worked in excess of 40 hours during a standard workweek is considered overtime by the Fair Labor Standards Act.  A standard workweek is always a fixed and recurring 168 hours of seven 24-hour periods.

It is explicitly stated that an employer cannot average two or more workweeks to determine overtime for its employees.  In other words, working a 25-hour week and then a 55-hour week is not recognized as two 40-hour weeks; employees covered by the FLSA would be entitled to 15 hours of overtime for the latter week.

Overtime pay is defined as time-and-a-half, or 1.5 hours’ pay, for every hour worked above 40 hours a week.

Minimum Wage

The Federal minimum wage was raised on July 24, 2009 to $7.25 an hour, a $0.70 increase from the former $6.55.  The rate is slightly different, however, for employees under 20 years of age.  Barring some exceptions, for their first 90 consecutive calendar days of work, these individuals are guaranteed only $4.25 an hour.  However, after that, they are entitled to the same $7.25 an hour as the rest of the workforce.

Many states have instituted different minimum wage laws that pay a higher rate.  In these states, the worker is required to receive the highest rate provided by law. 

Am I Covered by the FLSA?

The short answer to this question is, “more than likely, yes.”  However, it’s simpler to look at who is exempt rather than who is covered.  For one, businesses and other organizations making less than $500,000 a year do not necessarily have to provide all of the provisions outlined in the Act to their employees.  I spite of that, most schools, government agencies, and hospitals are not exempt from the FLSA’s standards, no matter how much money they take in. 

There are also specific types of employees that are not guaranteed the provisions of the FLSA.  Here is an incomplete list:

  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees (defined and outlined in the Act)
  • Employees of some small newspapers
  • Newspaper delivery persons
  • Railroad employees
  • Employees of fishing operations
  • Farm workers, especially on small farms

The Department of Labor’s website has the complete list of exemptions.

Other Provisions

Under the FLSA, employers have a few other responsibilities to their employees.  Perhaps the two most notable are:

  • Employers must display a poster describing terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Employers must keep records of their employees’ hours and pay

You may feel that you are not receiving the compensation or treatment you are entitled to.  To learn more, browse Lawyer Central for further Fair Labor Standards Act and employment law information.