Fair Labor Standards Act

Today we are fortunate to have laws to protect us from being forced to work excessive hours without being fairly compensated. We have laws to protect our children from being forced to work at an early age and these laws protect us from working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. In 1938 our 32nd president Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to have the “Fair Labor Standards Act” passed and signed into law. This piece of legislation was a land mark in our history.
It banned most child labor; it set a minimum hourly wage and set the standard work week. This was the beginning that made employers develop records to keep track of the wages that they paid to their employees and records of the hours the employees were working. The Supreme Court had been one of the major obstacles to wage-hour and child-labor laws. In the 1936 Presidential race wage-hour legislation was a campaign issue and Roosevelt promised to seek some constitutional way of protecting workers.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1936 election by a landslide he was determined to overcome the obstacles of the Supreme Court’s opposition as soon as possible. Roosevelt and his Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins tried to make a model for employers of government contractors in all fields, not just construction. But the Federal Government actually encouraged employers to exploit labor because the Government had to award every contract to the lowest bidder.

President Roosevelt and Frances Perkins continued to try to get congress to pass acts to prohibit the labor of children and set minimum wages and hours. The “Fair Labor Standard Act” in a draft form was sent to the White House where two trusted legal advisers of the President, and with the Supreme Court in mind, added new provisions to the already lengthy bill. Roosevelt had told his Secretary of Labor, that the length and complexity of the bill caused some of its difficulties with Congress, and asked for it to be shortened.
Lawyers tried to simplify the bill but faced the problem that, although legal language makes legislation difficult to understand, bills written in simple English are often difficult for the courts to enforce. Because the wage-hour, child-labor bill had been drafted with the Supreme Court in mind, the bill could only be cut from 40 pages to 10 pages. The bill was voted upon May 24, 1938 and after the House had passed the bill, the Senate-House Conference Committee made more changes to reconcile differences.
During the legislative battles over fair labor standards, members of Congress had proposed 72 amendments. Almost every change had exemptions, narrowed coverage, lowered standards, weakened administration, limited investigation, or in some other way worked to weaken the bill. What had survived was approved by the conference committee and passed the House on June 13, 1938 and then the Senate approved it. Congress then sent the bill to the President, and on June 25, 1938, the President signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. This affected industries that employed about one-fifth of the US workforce.
About 700,000 workers were affected by the wage increase and 13 million more were affected by the hour’s provision. It mostly affected white males, and about 14 percent of women (http://www. u-s-history. com). Children under the age of fourteen were no longer legally allowed to work with some exceptions in the agricultural industries and family businesses. Children under the age of eighteen were banned from working “hazardous” jobs in mining and some factory jobs. This had greatly reduced the number of children injured by bad working conditions.
Children between the ages of 14 and 16 have had additional restrictions on the number of hours they are allowed to work to encourage them to stay in school. During a school day they are only allowed to work three hours and no more than eighteen hours in a school week. Children are not allowed to work before 7a. m. and after 7 p. m. , and from June 1 through Labor Day they are not allowed to work after 9 p. m. The 14 and 15 year old also have addition al restrictions in addition to the “hazardous” jobs that they may not perform.
These jobs include the food service industry such as baking, cooking, working in the freezers and meat coolers, operating food slicers, grinders, choppers and bakery mixers. Fourteen and fifteen year olds are also not to perform jobs that require loading or unloading goods on or off of trucks, railcars or conveyors and they are not to work in connection with maintenance or repair of buildings, equipment or machines. Employers may be assessed civil monetary penalties of up to $11,000 for each employee who is the subject of a violation of the Act’s child labor provisions.
A civil monetary penalty of up to $50,000 may be assessed for each child labor violation that causes the death or serious injury of any minor employee, and these assessments may be doubled, up to $100,000 when the violations are determined to be willful or repeated (LindenMeyer, 2004). In the “Fair Labor Standard Act” the federal minimum wage began at 25 cents per hour in 1938 and it has had over twenty amendments made over the years for increases. The latest rate of $7. 25 per hour was effective on July 24, 2009.
In addition to a minimum wage employers must pay the employee’s wages in cash or something that can easily be converted to cash or legal forms of compensation, for example food and lodging. Employers cannot pay their employees with coupons or tokens that can only be used in a store owned by the employer. Discounts that are granted to employees by the employers cannot be used towards meeting the minimum wage requirement. There are a number of employment practices which ‘Fair Labor Standard Act” does not regulate.
They are vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay; meal or rest periods, 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 standard work week in 1938 was reduced to 44 hours per week, and if employees were to work over that they would be paid over time at a rate of their wages plus one-half wages for the additional time worked. By 1940 the standard work week was reduced to 40 hours per week (www. dol. gov/dol/oasam/programs/history/flsa1938. htm).
Despite this law in 2006 a class action law suit was brought against Wal-Mart for not paying its employees for their overtime and forcing them to work through their breaks. Wal-Mart lost the law suit and the workers won $78. 4 million (Worth 2008 p 12). In 1961 an amendment was added to the “Fair Labor Standard Act” called “enterprise coverage”. It applies to employers whose annual sales total $500,000. 00 or more, or who are engaged in interstate commerce. The courts interpreted that the term interstate commerce to cover companies that regularly use the U. S. mail to send and receive letters to and from other states.
The courts included that employees that use company telephones or computers to place or accept interstate business calls or take orders would make the employers subject to the “Fair Labor Standard Act” (Steingold, 2009). There are also exemptions to the “Fair Labor Standard Act” where some employees do not qualify for the provisions of overtime or the minimum wage requirements. These employees who are not entitled to it are called “exempt” employees. Employees that are always entitled to the overtime and the minimum wage pay provisions are “nonexempt” employees and they are blue-collar employees and first responders.
Blue-collar employees include carpenters, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, iron workers, craftsman, operating engineers, construction works, and laborers. First responders are workers that are on the front lines of protecting safety and health. They include police officers, firefighters, medical technicians, ambulance personnel, and hazardous materials workers. Employees that are always exempt and are never entitled to overtime or a minimum wage are employees of seasonal amusement or recreational businesses, employees of newspapers with a circulation of less than 4,000 and newspaper deliver people, and workers of small farms.
Some employees are exempt if they meet certain requirements; this is usually because the employees are being paid a salary that compensates them enough for the extra duties and responsibilities that they have. Executive, administrative and professional workers are exempt if they meet the specific guidelines. The requirements for an exempt executive worker are that they must manage other workers as a primary job duty and have at least two full time employees that they are in charge of. They must have the ability to hire, fire, discipline, promote, and demote others or make recommendations about these decisions.
The executive worker must earn a salary of at least $455 per week. The requirements for an administrative employee to qualify as exempt are that they must primarily complete their work directly for the business’s management or administration. They must be independent workers and primarily use their own discretion and judgment on their work duties. The administrative employee also must earn a salary of at least $455 per week. The requirements for an exempt professional are that they complete work that requires invention, imagination, originality, or talents in the arts such as music, writing and acting.
They may need to be a highly intellectual and have been trained in extensive studies such as law, medicine, theology, accounting, engineering, architecture, teaching, and pharmacy. The must also earn a salary of at least $455 per week. Outside sales people are exempt if they regularly work away from the employers’ office and make sales or obtain orders or contracts for services or facilities. Exempt salespersons are generally paid through commissions and will require little to no supervision to complete their job.
The exemption from the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions also applies to computer specialist that receives a salary of at least no less than $455 per week or not less than $27. 63 per hour. The law specifies that computer specialist’s primary duties involve applying systems analysis techniques and procedures. Designing, developing, documenting, analyzing, creating, testing, or modifying computer systems or programs, prototypes and/or machine operating systems. There are a number of employees that are exempt from only the overtime pay requirements.
These include taxicab drivers, announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of radio and TV stations that have fewer than 100,000 people located in a town or city (Repa, 2007 and Steingold, 2009). In 1963 an amendment called the “Equal Pay Act” had been added to equalize the pay scales for men and women who work at an equal skill, effort and responsibility. Congress felt that the differential in pay prevented the maximization of the available labor resources, they wanted to prevent labor disputes, and they did not want an unfair method of competition.
They also felt that the wage differentials depressed the wages and the standard of living. Congress also wanted to eliminate stereotypes about the value of work performed by women. Congress exempted several forms of discrimination from the operation of the Equal Pay Act. These exceptions include shift differentials, restrictions on or differences based on the time of day worked, hours of work, and the lifting or moving of heavy objects. The Equal Pay Act also excluded differences based on experience, training or ability, as well as unusual or higher than normal wage rates which employers maintained for valid reasons.
The Equal Pay Act allows for unequal pay for equal work only when wages are set pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or other factors outside of sex (The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc, 1963 and Landsberg, 2004). In 2004 a class action suit was brought against Wal-Mart were 1. 6 million female associates that worked for Wal-Mart felt that they were discriminated against because they were women. These women tried to advance into higher paying positions but were passed over by men/boys who did not have the experience and knowledge that these women had.
More than seventy percent of the Wal-Mart workforce is women, sixty-five percent of the cashier and greeter positions are held by women and only thirty-five percent of the assistant managers for Wal-Mart are women. The female employees of Wal-Mart are paid less than the male workforce for jobs that are of equal skill, effort and responsibility all for keeping prices lower for the consumer (Worth, 2008 p 8-12). The Fair Labor Standard Act requires employers to keep records of wages, hours, and other regulated items by the Department of Labor.
Most of the information is generally obtained by employers in ordinary business practice and in compliance with other laws and regulations. Employees that are subject to the minimum wage provisions or both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions must have employers keep the following records with personal information, including employee’s name, home address, occupation, sex, and birth date if under 19 years of age, the hour and day when workweek begins and the total hours worked each workday and each workweek.
These records also need to indicate the total daily or weekly straight-time earnings and the regular hourly pay rate for any week when overtime is worked and total overtime pay for the workweek. In addition to records for hours worked and paid the records also must include deductions from or additions to wages, total wages paid each pay period and the date of payment and pay period covered. The Records required for exempt employees differ from those for nonexempt workers. Special information is required for employees that work from the home and for employees to where lodging is provided (http://www. ol. gov/dol/whd/regs/compliance/hrg. htm). The constitutionality of the “Fair Labor Standard Act” was unanimously supported by the Supreme Court it has been altered and amended on at least 43 occasions between 1938 and 2009. Those alterations and amendments have provided and clarified benefits to workers in various employment sections, and made increases to the minimum wage. As a hardworking American we have a right to be paid fairly for our work. It is unfortunate that many unscrupulous employers attempt to manipulate laws intended to protect workers in order to avoid paying just compensation.
When this happens, employees can turn to the legal system to ensure that their rights are protected without being discriminated against or discharged for filing a complaint or participate in any proceeding under the Act. ? Repa, Barbara Kate. “Your Rights in the Workplace” Consolidated Printers Inc, July 2007 Steingold, Fred S. “The Employers Legal Handbook” “Manage you employees & workplace effectively”. Delta Printing Solutions, Inc, June 2009 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. “Equal Pay For Equal Work” BNA
Incorporated, 1963 Worth, Richard “Open for Debate Workers’ Rights” Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008 “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. ” Gale Encyclopedia of U. S. Economic History. 1999. Retrieved from Encyclopedia. com: http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1G2-3406400301. html Newman, Roger K. “Fair Labor Standards Act (1938). ” Major Acts of Congress. 2004. Retrieved from Encyclopedia. com: http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1G2-3407400107. html LINDENMEYER, KRISTE. “National Child Labor Committee. ” Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. 2004.
Retrieved from Encyclopedia. com: http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1G2-3402800297. html Grossman, Jonathan. “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage” www. dol. gov http://www. dol. gov/dol/topic/discrimination/agedisc. htm http://www. dol. gov/dol/oasam/programs/history/flsa1938. htm http://www. dol. gov/dol/whd/regs/compliance/hrg. htm http://www. u-s-history. com/pages/h1701. html “Equal Pay Act of 1963. ” Major Acts of Congress. Ed. Brian K. Landsberg. Macmillan-Thomson Gale, 2004. eNotes. com. 2006. http://www. enotes. com/major-acts-congress/equal-pay-act

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