|November 5, 2008|
Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act
(For best printout, see the PDF version.)
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.
The Wage and Hour Division (Wage-Hour) administers and enforces FLSA with respect to private employment, State and local government employment, and Federal employees of the Library of Congress, U.S. Postal Service, Postal Rate Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The FLSA is enforced by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for employees of other Executive Branch agencies, and by the U.S. Congress for covered employees of the Legislative Branch.
Special rules apply to State and local government employment involving fire protection and law enforcement activities, volunteer services, and compensatory time off instead of cash overtime pay.
Covered, nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Special provisions apply to workers in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Nonexempt workers must be paid overtime pay at a rate of not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek.
Wages required by FLSA are due on the regular payday for the pay period covered. Deductions made from wages for such items as cash or merchandise shortages, employer-required uniforms, and tools of the trade, are not legal to the extent that they reduce the wages of employees below the minimum rate required by FLSA or reduce the amount of overtime pay due under FLSA.
The FLSA contains some exemptions from these basic standards. Some apply to specific types of businesses; others apply to specific kinds of work.
While FLSA does set basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards and regulates the employment of minors, there are a number of employment practices which FLSA does not regulate. For example, FLSA does not require:
The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an employee's usual or promised wages or commissions in excess of those required by the FLSA. However, some States do have laws under which such claims (sometimes including fringe benefits) may be filed.
Also, 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 above matters are for agreement between the employer and the employees or their authorized representatives.
All employees of certain enterprises having workers engaged in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for such commerce by any person, are covered by FLSA.
A covered enterprise is the related activities performed through unified operation or common control by any person or persons for a common business purpose and -
Any enterprise that was covered by FLSA on March 31, 1990, and that ceased to be covered because of the revised $500,000 test, continues to be subject to the overtime pay, child labor and recordkeeping provisions of FLSA.
Employees of firms which are not covered enterprises under FLSA still may be subject to its minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor provisions if they are individually engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce, or in any closely-related process or occupation directly essential to such production. Such employees include those who: work in communications or transportation; regularly use the mails, telephones, or telegraph for interstate communication, or keep records of interstate transactions; handle, ship, or receive goods moving in interstate commerce; regularly cross State lines in the course of employment; or work for independent employers who contract to do clerical, custodial, maintenance, or other work for firms engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce.
Domestic service workers such as day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, or full-time babysitters are covered if:
Tipped employees are individuals engaged in occupations in which they customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages.
The employer who elects to use the tip credit provision must inform the employee in advance and must be able to show that the employee receives at least the applicable minimum wage (see above) when direct wages and the tip credit allowance are combined. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Also, employees must retain all of their tips, except to the extent that they participate in a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement.
The reasonable cost or fair value of board, lodging, or other facilities customarily furnished by the employer for the employee's benefit may be considered part of wages.
The performance of certain types of work in an employee's home is prohibited under the law 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). The manufacture of women's apparel (and jewelry under hazardous conditions) is generally prohibited. If you have questions on whether a certain type of work is restricted, or who is eligible for a homework certificate, or how to obtain a certificate, you may contact the local Wage-Hour office.
The FLSA provides for the employment of certain individuals at wage rates below the statutory minimum. Such individuals include student-learners (vocational education students), as well as full-time students in retail or service establishments, agriculture, or institutions of higher education. Also included are individuals whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by a physical or mental disability, including those related to age or injury, for the work to be performed. Employment at less than the minimum wage is authorized to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment. Such employment is permitted only under certificates issued by Wage-Hour.
A minimum wage of not less than $4.25 an hour is permitted for employees under 20 years of age during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer. Employers are prohibited from taking any action to displace employees in order to hire employees at the youth minimum wage. Also prohibited are partial displacements such as reducing employees' hours, wages, or employment benefits.
Some employees are exempt from the overtime pay provisions or both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions.
Because exemptions are generally narrowly defined under FLSA, an employer should carefully check the exact terms and conditions for each. Detailed information is available from local Wage-Hour offices.
Following are examples of exemptions which are illustrative, but not all-inclusive. These examples do not define the conditions for each exemption.
Exemptions from Both Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay
Exemptions from Overtime Pay Only
Partial Exemptions from Overtime Pay
The FLSA youth employment provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health or well-being. The provisions include restrictions on hours of work for minors under 16 and lists of hazardous occupations orders for both farm and non-farm jobs declared by the Secretary of Labor to be too dangerous for minors to perform. Further information on prohibited occupations is available from http://www.youthrules.dol.gov.
Regulations governing youth employment in non-farm jobs differ somewhat from those pertaining to agricultural employment. In non-farm work, the permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, are as follows:
Fourteen is the minimum age for most non-farm work. However, at any age, youths may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work for parents in their solely-owned non-farm business (except in manufacturing or on hazardous jobs); or gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.
In farm work, permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, are as follows:
Minors of any age may be employed by their parents at any time in any occupation on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
The FLSA requires employers to keep records on wages, hours, and other items, as specified in Department of Labor recordkeeping regulations. Most of the information is of the kind generally maintained by employers in ordinary business practice and in compliance with other laws and regulations. The records do not have to be kept in any particular form and time clocks need not be used. With respect to an employee subject to the minimum wage provisions or both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions, the following records must be kept:
Records required for exempt employees differ from those for nonexempt workers. Special information is required for homeworkers, for employees working under uncommon pay arrangements, for employees to whom lodging or other facilities are furnished, and for employees receiving remedial education.
Workweek - A workweek is a period of 168 hours during 7 consecutive 24-hour periods. It may begin on any day of the week and at any hour of the day established by the employer. Generally, for purposes of minimum wage and overtime payment, each workweek stands alone; there can be no averaging of 2 or more workweeks. Employee coverage, compliance with wage payment requirements, and the application of most exemptions are determined on a workweek basis.
Hours Worked - Covered employees must be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. In general, "hours worked" includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal activity of the work day to the end of the last principal work activity of the workday. Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work.
Overtime must be paid at a rate of at least one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for each hour worked in a workweek in excess of the maximum allowable in a given type of employment. Generally, the regular rate includes all payments made by the employer to or on behalf of the employee (except for certain statutory exclusions). The following examples are based on a maximum 40-hour workweek applicable to most covered nonexempt employees.
If, under the employment agreement, a salary sufficient to meet the minimum wage requirement in every workweek is paid as straight time for whatever number of hours are worked in a workweek, the regular rate is obtained by dividing the salary by the number of hours worked each week. To illustrate, suppose an employee's hours of work vary each week and the agreement with the employer is that the employee will be paid $480 a week for whatever number of hours of work are required. Under this agreement, the regular rate will vary in overtime weeks. If the employee works 50 hours, the regular rate is $9.60 ($480 divided by 50 hours). In addition to the salary, half the regular rate, or $4.80, is due for each of the 10 overtime hours, for a total of $528 for the week. If the employee works 60 hours, the regular rate is $8.00 ($480 divided by 60 hours). In that case, an additional $4.00 is due for each of the 20 overtime hours for a total of $560 for the week.
In no case may the regular rate be less than the minimum wage required by FLSA.
If a salary is paid on other than a weekly basis, the weekly pay must be determined in order to compute the regular rate and overtime pay. If the salary is for a half month, it must be multiplied by 24 and the product divided by 52 weeks to get the weekly equivalent. A monthly salary should be multiplied by 12 and the product divided by 52.
Wage-Hour's enforcement of FLSA is carried out by investigators stationed across the U.S. As Wage-Hour's authorized representatives, they conduct investigations and gather data on wages, hours, and other employment conditions or practices, in order to determine compliance with the law. Where violations are found, they also may recommend changes in employment practices to bring an employer into compliance.
It is a violation to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding under FLSA.
Willful violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.
Violators of the youth employment provisions are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $11,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation.
Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay requirements are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,100 for each such violation.
The FLSA prohibits the shipment of goods in interstate commerce which were produced in violation of the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, or special minimum wage provisions.
Listed below are methods which FLSA provides for recovering unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages.
An employee may not bring suit if he or she has accepted back wages under the supervision of Wage-Hour or if the Secretary of Labor has already filed suit to recover the wages.
A 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back pay, except in the case of willful violation, in which case a 3-year statute applies.
In addition to FLSA, Wage-Hour enforces and administers a number of other labor laws. Among these are:
More detailed information on FLSA and other laws administered by Wage-Hour is available by calling our toll-free help line 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243). For those who have access to the Internet, further information may also be obtained on the Wage and Hour Division Internet Home Page which can be located at the following address: www.wagehour.dol.gov.
In accordance with the provisions of the SBREFA, the Small Business Administration established a National Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards to receive comments from small entities about federal agency enforcement actions. The Ombudsman annually evaluates enforcement activities and rates each agency's responsiveness to small entities. Small entities wishing to comment on Wage and Hour Division enforcement activities may call 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247), or write the Office of the National Ombudsman, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 3rd Street, SW, MC2120, Washington, DC 20416-0005, or visit the Ombudsman's internet website, http://www.sba.gov/ombudsman/.
The right to file a comment with the Ombudsman is in addition to any other rights a small entity may have, including the right to contest the assessment of a civil money penalty. Filing a comment with the Ombudsman neither extends the maximum time period for contesting the assessment of a penalty, nor takes the place of filing the response required to secure an administrative hearing on a penalty. The Wage and Hour Division does not consider filing of a comment with the Ombudsman as a factor in determining how to resolve issues raised during a compliance action.
The equal pay provisions of FLSA prohibit sex-based wage differentials between men and women employed in the same establishment who perform jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions. These provisions, as well as other statutes prohibiting discrimination in employment, are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. More detailed information is available from its offices which are listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government.