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Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938


The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) originated in President Franklin Roosevelt's (19331945) New Deal. It was a landmark piece of legislation that had a significant impact on the labor movement in the United States. The FLSA set nationwide standards for employees of organizations engaged in interstate commerce, operations of a certain size, and public agencies. Still active today, it affects millions of full and part time workers in the private sector and the federal, state, and local governments.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the first minimum wage (25 cents per hour) was established. The work week was limited to 44 hours per week, which was revised in 1940 to 40 hours per week. Standards were developed to keep records of hours worked and wages paid. These same standards allowed employers to keep track of overtime owed to employees who exceeded the standard work week.

Perhaps most significantly, the Fair Labor Standards Act banned child labor. Children under age fourteen were no longer legally allowed to work. Exceptions were made for the agricultural industry and some family businesses. Children under age eighteen were restricted from "hazardous" jobs, including mining and some factory jobs. The ban on child labor greatly decreased the number of children harmed by bad working conditions.

A 1963 amendment to the FLSA called the Equal Pay Act prohibited differences in pay based on sex. Under this provision women who were often paid wages lower than a man in the same position could now demand equal pay. The Equal Pay Act was an important step in leveling the often uneven work field in which women competed with men for the same jobs but had to settle for making less money.

Over twenty amendments have been made to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Most of these were made to increase the minimum wage, which has gone from 25 cents in 1938 to $5.25 in 1998.

Enforcement of FLSA standards is handled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration, Wage-Hour Division. The Equal Pay Act is an exception; it's enforcement was transferred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1979.

See also: Child Labor, Interstate Commerce, Minimum Wage, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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