The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) establishes a minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and youth employment standards affecting fulltime and part time workers in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments.
The wage and hour division 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 Commission, and Tennessee Valley Authority. The FLSA is enforced by the U.S. Office of Personnel 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 involving fire protection and law enforcement activities, volunteer services, and compensatory time off instead of cash overtime pay.
Basic Wage Standards
Effective July 24, 2009, Covered non-exempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $ $7.25 per hour. Special provisions apply to workers in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of 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 forty hours of work in a workweek.
Wages required by the FLSA are due on a 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 the 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:
- vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay;
- meal or rest period, holidays off, or vacations;
- premium pay for weekend or holiday work;
- pay raises or fringe benefits; or
- a discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages to terminated employees.
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.
Who is covered?
All employees of certain enterprises having workers having engaged in interstates commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, other otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for such commerce by any person, are covered by the 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 –
- whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is not less than $500,000 (exclusive of excise taxes at the retail level that are separately stated); or
- is engaged in the operation of a hospital, an institution primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, or the mentally ill who reside on the premises; a school for mentally or physically disabled or gifted children; a preschool, an elementary or secondary school, or an institution of higher education (whether operated for profit or not for profit); or
- is an activity of public agency.
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 telegraphs 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 through work for firms engaged in the interstate commerce or production of goods for interstate commerce.
Domestic service workers such as day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, or full-time baby-sitters are covered if:
- their cash wages from one employer in calendar year 2007 are at least $1,500.00 (this calendar year threshold is adjusted by the Social Security Administration each year); or
- they work a total of more than 8 hours a week for one or more employers.
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 of fair value of board, lodging, or other facilities customarily furnished by the employer for the employee’s benefits 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 manufacturer 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.
Subminimum Wage Provisions
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 certain certificates issued by Wage-Hour.
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, employers should carefully check the exact terms and conditions for each. Detailed information is available fro 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:
- Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and employees in certain computer-related occupations (as defined in Department of Labor Regulations);
- Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments, employees of certain small newspapers, seamen employed on fishing foreign vessel, employees engaged in fishing operations, and employees engaged in newspaper delivery;
- Farmworkers employed by anyone who used no more than 500 “man-days” of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year;
- Casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly of infirm.
Exemptions for Overtime Pay Only
- Certain commissioned employees for retail or service establishments; auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers; or part-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks or farm implements, who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchaser;
- Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans;
- Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan broadcasting stations;
- Domestic service workers living in the employer’s residence;
- Employees of motion picture theaters; and
Partial exemptions from Overtime Pay
- Partial overtime pay exemptions apply to employees engaged in certain operations on agricultural commodities and to employees of certain bulk petroleum distributors.
- Hospitals and residential care establishments may adopt, by agreement with their employees, a 14-day work period instead of the usual 7-day workweek if the employees are paid at least time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 8 in a day or 80 in a 14-day work period, whichever is the greater number of overtime hours.
- Employees who lack a high school diploma, or who have not attained the educational level of the 8th grade, can be required to spend up to 10 hours a workweek engaged in remedial reading or training in other basic skills without receiving time and one-half overtime pay for these hours. However, the employees must receive their normal wages for hours spent in such training and training must not be job specific.
- Public agency fire departments and police departments may establish a work period ranging from 7 to 28 days in which overtime need only be paid after a specified number of hours in each work period.
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 from and time clocks do not need to be used. With respect to an employee subject to the minimum wage provisions or both minimum wage and overtime pay provisions, the following records must be kept:
- personal information, including employee’s name home address, occupation, sex, and birth date if under 19 years of age;
- hour and day when workweek begins;
- total hours worked each workday and each workweek;
- total daily or weekly straight-time earnings;
- regular hourly pay rate for any week when overtime is worked;
- total overtime pay for the workweek;
- deductions from or additions to wages;
- total wages paid each pay period; and
- date of payment and pay period covered.
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’ remedial education.
Terms Used in FLSA
A 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 employed must be on duty, 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 activity of the workday. Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e. suffered or permitted) to work.
Computing Overtime Pay
Overtime must be paid at a rate of at least one and one-half time s the employee’s regular rate of par 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.
- Hourly rate (regular pay rate for an employee paid by the hour)- If more than 40 hours are worked, at least one and one-half time the regular for each hour over 40 is due.
Example: An employee paid $8.00 and hour works 44 hours in a workweek. The employee is entitled to at least one and one-half time $8.00, or $12.00, for each hour over 40. Pay for the week would be $320 for the 40 hours, plus $48.00 for the four hours of overtime- a total of $368.00.
- Piece Rate- The regular rate of pay for an employee paid on a piecework basis is obtained by dividing total weekly earnings by the total number of hours worked in that week. The employee is entitled to an additional one-half times this regular rate for each hour over 40, plus the full piecework earnings.
Example: An employee paid on a piecework basis works 45 hours in a week and earns $405. The regular rate of pay for that week is $405 divided by 45, or $9.00 an hour. In addition to the straight-time pay, the employee is also entitled to $4.50 (half the regular rate) for each hour over 40- an additional $22.50 for the 5 overtime hours- for a total of $427.50.
Another way to compensate pieceworkers for overtime, if agreed to before the work is performed, is to pay one and one-half times the piece rate for each piece produced during the overtime hours. The piece rate must be the one actually paid during non-overtime hours and must be enough to yield at least the minimum wage per hour.
- Salary- The regular rate for an employee paid a salary for a regular or specified number of hours a week is obtained by dividing the salary by the number of hours for which the salary is intended to compensate. The employee is entitled to an additional one-half times this regular rate for each hour over 40, plus the salary.
If, under the employment agreement, a salary sufficient to meet the minimum wage requirements in every workweek is paid as straight time for whatever number of hours 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 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 the 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 is 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 and 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. See also Fact Sheet #77A
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 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 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.
Recovery of Back Wages
Listed below are methods which FLSA provides for recovering unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages.
- Wage-Hour may supervise payment of back wages.
- The Secretary of Labor may bring suit for back wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages.
- An employee may file a private suit for back pay and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
- The Secretary of Labor may obtain an injunction to restrain any person from violating the FLSA, including the unlawful withholding of proper minimum wage and overtime pay.
An employee may not bring a 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.
In some cases, an employer can be required to pay double the worker’s lost wages.
A 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back pay, except in the case of willful violation, in which a 3-year statute applies.
NOTE: Filing a claim with the DOL does not keep time for filing suit from running out. If you feel your rights under the FLSA have been violated, you should contact an employment attorney immediately.
Other Labor Laws
In addition to FLSA, Wage-Hour enforces and administers a number of other labor laws. Among these are:
- the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act, the Service Contract Act and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, which relate to wages and safety in contracts and services with the Federal Government;
- the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which protects farm workers by imposing certain requirements on agricultural and associations and requires the registration of crew leaders who must also provide the same worker protections;
- the Wage Garnishment Law, which limits the amount of an individual’s income that may be legally garnished and prohibits firing an employee whose pay is garnished for payment of a single debt;
- the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which prohibits most private employers from using any type of lie detector test either for pre-employment screening of job applicants or for testing current employees during the course of employment:
- the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave each year, with maintenance of group health insurance, for the birth and care of a child, for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, for the care of a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition, for the employee’s serious health condition, or up to 26 weeks to care for service member with a serious illness or injury; and
- the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended.
Equal Pay Provisions
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.
Call the Wage and Hour Division at
1-866-487-9243 (toll free) or visit our
website at www.wagehour.dol.gov