The Fair Labor Standards Act

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The U.S. Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 to enforce what were deemed to be certain fair standards of labor practice. The FLSA established the first national minimum wage, guaranteed overtime pay for certain work, and limited the uses of child labor. The act was passed as part of a general package of reforms proposed by US President Franklin Roosevelt, as a part of his "New Deal" program.

Minimum Wage

Various states had already experimented with enforcing a minimum wage before it became federal policy. The minimum wage set by the Fair Labor Standards Act was only 25 cents an hour. This would be $3.77 in today's inflation adjusted money. Over time, through various acts of congress, the minimum wage has increased to $7.25 an hour in 2011. The minimum wage establishes an absolute floor for U.S. wages.


The Fair Labor Standards Act set overtime as any time worked in excess of 40 hours a week. The creators of this measure hoped it would reduce the high unemployment of the Great Depression, as employers would prefer to bring in new labor rather than pay for overtime. Overtime is pay is still standard today. According to the law, employers are required to pay workers time and a half for these hours.

Child Labor

The Fair Labor Standards Act forbid anyone under 18 work in conditions that could be considered hazardous, such as working near toxic chemicals. It set age 12 as the absolute limit before someone could work. For all minors over 12, it imposed strict limits on the time which they could work for an employer. Certain exceptions were made for families employing their own children in farm work and at other tasks.

Court System

Many lawsuits have been launched and successfully carried out on employers who failed to live up to the standards set by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many employers have attempted to get around overtime rules and limits on child labor. As well, many employers have sought to keep workers off the books and employ them at less than minimum wage. If a worker has had their rights abused in this way, they have recourse.