A Look at the Fair Labor Standards Act

When most California employees go to their jobs, they are not wondering whether the company will pay them or treat them fairly. Pay for completed work and fair treatment of employees are routine aspects of life in the U.S. labor force. It was not always so, though, and a look back to the establishment of the Fair Labor Standards Act will provide some perspective.

The History, Art & Archives website of the U.S. House of Representatives shares the story, highlighting the life of Mary Norton – “the first woman to represent an East Coast state in the House of Representatives.” An acclaimed activist and reformer, Norton “fought for the labor and working-class interests of her urban New Jersey District.” Her accomplishment in getting the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in Congress was, perhaps, her proudest achievement.

Not only did the bill set minimum wage standards, but it also established guidelines for the employment of minors and put the 40-hour workweek into place. Today, according to the United States Department of Labor, the FLSA affects “employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

In addition to the standard of a 40-hour workweek, requirements for overtime pay are in the law. If employees work more than 40 hours in a week (with some exceptions), their employers must pay “not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay,” according to the Department of Labor.

The FLSA also requires specific forms of reporting and recordkeeping, including records of what companies are paying their employees.

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