Fair Labor Standards Act


Fair Labor Standards


Problems That Necessitate the Policy

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was created in response to unequal and questionable working conditions in America, including child labor, extreme and unsafe working conditions, and a lack of standardized work schedules and pay scales. The FLSA required a 40-cent-an-hour minimum wage, a 40-hour maximum work week, and a minimum working age of 16 for most industries. The FLSA was designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and the livelihoods of American families by maintaining a living wage for American workers.

Facts and statistics:

A survey by the Labor Department’s Children’s Bureau in 1937 took a cross section of 449 children in several states and found that nearly one-fourth of them worked 60 hours or longer per week and only one-third worked 40 hours or less a week. The median wage was

only $4 a week.

Current Policy Description: Who is affected?

According to the Department of Labor (DOL) the most recent

version of the FLSA (revised in 2011) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards that affect full- and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local government. Most private and public employment is affected by the FLSA because it requires employers to pay at

least the federal minimum wage and

overtime pay of one and a half times the

regular rate of pay.

One-hundred thirty million workers in more

than 7 million work places are assisted

under the FLSA under two types of

coverage determined by the DOL.

Employers who have at least two

employees and make a minimum of

$500,000 a year in revenue qualify for

Enterprise Coverage. If the business is not

covered, however, the worker can still be

covered through Individual Coverage.

Employees are protected by the FLSA if

their work regularly involves “interstate

commerce” such as those sending packages

or making phone calls out of state, or

traveling for their jobs.

Minimum Wage:

Federal, state, and local minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour.

“Tipped wage workers,” however, are exempt from this minimum because they receive part of their income from the tips

they receive from customers. Therefore, tipped wage is set at only $2.13 per hour plus tips. No employer is allowed to discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying men more than

women. Equal pay for equal work is expected, but with exceptions. Exceptions include seniority systems and merit

systems. The maximum work day is 8 hours

during a 40-hour work week. Anything over this is considered overtime.


According to the DOL, non-exempt employees must receive one and a

half times their regular rate of pay for overtime work.

Child and Adolescent Labor Laws:

According to the DOL youths under age 14

may not be employed in non-agricultural

occupations covered by the FLSA. Thirteen-

year-olds may act or perform, deliver

newspapers, and babysit according to

federal law. Youths who are 14 or 15 years

old may be employed outside of school

hours in “non-hazardous” jobs for limited

periods of time. They may work between 7

a.m. and 7 p.m. when it does not interfere

with school hours, up to three hours on a

school day, and up to 18 hours in a school


During school holidays they may

work full-time adult hours, that is, up to 8

hours on a non-school day and up to 40

hours in a non-school week. Youths aged 16

to 17 may be employed for unlimited hours

in any occupation other than those declared

hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. It is

illegal for minors (under age 18) to perform jobs deemed hazardous, including mining, meat packing, operating power-driven machines, roofing, and driving.

Record Keeping:

The DOL requires that employers keep records of their employees’

information, such as full name, mailing

address, birthdate, sex and occupation,

hours worked each day and week, hourly

pay rate, daily earnings, overtime earnings,

total wages paid, date of payment, and all

additions to or deductions from the

employee’s wages.

History of the FLSA

Many other policies paved the way for the

FLSA including Hammer v. Dangenhart,

Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, the New Deal,

the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA),

and others. Key players in the FLSA included

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and

Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, as well

as Senator Hugo Black of Alabama and

Representative William Connery of

Massachusetts who agreed to sponsor

earlier bills on this subject in the Senate and

House, respectively.

It took 26 rounds and 72 amendments through Congress for the

bill to become law, but on June 25, 1938, the FDR administration claimed victory. Most of the amendments had been crafted to weaken the original bill, and in the end the bill predominately favored white


Arguments in favor

Arguments in favor of the FLSA describe equal rights for all people, including a minimum wage for all. Wage requirements and over-time pay help maintain equality amongst workers.

The Fair Minimum Wage

Act of 2013 would amend the FLSA to

increase the federal minimal wage up to

$10.10. However, the policy has had little

traction in the House and Senate. After it

was introduced in the Senate, it was

referred to the Committee on Health,

Education, Labor, and Pensions and has not

been seen since. Another argument in favor

of the FLSA involves children’s rights to

their childhoods and to education. Proponents say no youths should have to choose between school and making money.

Arguments against

An argument against the FLSA has to do

with limited access to paid laborers for

American farms. Farmers have few options

for laborers and farm hands. Through the

20th century, American family farms were

run by farmers and their children, but an

FLSA amendment, “Child Labor Requirements in Agricultural Occupations under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” last

amended in 2007, severely limited what

minors can do on American farms—even

those owned and operated by their parents.

Under the FLSA, minors under age 16 may

be employed outside of school hours,

without parental consent, on a farm; but

they are disallowed from performing those

agricultural tasks considered “hazardous”

by the Secretary of Labor. These hazards

include operating a standard sized tractor;

operating or assisting to operate a myriad

of agricultural machines; working in a farm

yard, pen, or stall occupied by various

animals including a cow with a newborn

calf; working from a ladder at a height of

over 20 feet; and much more. American

farms have become industrialized—little is

done without a machine—and with the

hazard regulations put forth by the FLSA

adolescents, even the children of farmers,

cannot assist with the duties of running a


Additionally, as more and more

Americans attend college and post-

graduate programs, there are fewer rural

blue collar workers to pick up the slack.

Without turning to undocumented workers,

farmers have few options when it comes to

farm laborers and they believe agricultural

jobs should be treated differently by the

Secretary of Labor and the FLSA.

Policy evaluation

At least one-fourth of Americans currently

work at jobs that do not pay a living wage.

As the cost of living has risen, minimum

wage has remained stagnant for several

years. A study released in 2014 by Oxfam

America, an anti-poverty organization,

found that increasing the federal minimum

wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour would

give roughly 25 million American workers a

raise. Nearly one in five workers in every

congressional district in America would

benefit—about 55,000 people in every

district. Raising the minimum wage would

also pump money into the economy.

When people have more money, they are able to

spend more money on goods and services,

thus, benefiting the economy.

The FLSA is a good policy, but it needs to be updated and

amended. The minimum wage is increasingly inadequate for life in modern America.

Policy recommendations

The FLSA should be amended. The federal

minimum wage should be raised to a living

wage to improve the lives of Americans and

to improve our economy. Child labor laws

for agricultural work should be amended to

allow adolescents more opportunities for

work on farms. As it currently stands, there

is little a teenager can do on her parent’s

farm in the United States, and that is

detrimental to American farmers.

These are some references that may be used


Department of Labor. (2007).

Child Labor Requirements In Agricultural Occupations Under the

Fair Labor Standards Act (Child Labor Bulletin 102).

(WH publication 1295). Retrieved




Department of Labor. (2009).

Fact Sheet #14: Coverage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act


Retrieved from



Department of Labor. (2011).

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, As Amended.


publication 1318). Retrieved from



Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938

. (2008). Retrieved from




Grossman, J.

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage.

(1978). Retrieved from



Offenheiser, R.

Why Raise Minimum Wage?

(2014). Retrieved from



Time for a Raise.

(2013). Retrieved from






United States Congress. (2013).


Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013

. Retrieved from



Each backgrounder must include:

  • Problem that necessitates the policy
    • What is the problem that this policy is designed to solve?
    • Why does it matter?
    • Facts and statistics about the problem specifically
  • Policy description
    • Describe the policy in its entirety (but succinctly)
    • Use bulletpoints
    • Who benefits, when, how, how much, how often, etc.
  • History of the policy
    • Brief history of how the policy came to be
  • Arguments in favor and against the policy
    • What do those who favor this policy say about it?
    • Why is this a good policy?
    • What do those who oppose this policy say about it?
    • Why is this a bad policy?
  • Policy evaluation including statistics – this is where you say whether this is good, bad, indifferent, inadequate, excessive, etc.
  • Policy recommendations
    • What should we do about this policy?
    • Change it, end it, expand it?

Note that this is a very brief paper, so you must present the information in a concise manner. 4 pages only

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