HR Management & Compliance

FLSA Basics

FLSA. Everyone has heard of it, but not everyone knows exactly what the FLSA regulates. Let’s take a look at the primary regulations imposed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and give a quick overview of what else it covers.

What Does the FLSA Cover?

First and foremost, the biggest item that the FLSA is known for is providing minimum wage and overtime regulations. Currently, at the federal level in the United States, the minimum wage is set at $7.25/hour. It has been at this level since 2009. (There are also state and local laws that regulate minimum wage; if there is a discrepancy, the employees in that area must be paid the higher of the two.)

Overtime pay regulations under the FLSA state that time-and-a-half pay must be provided for hours worked in excess of 40 in a given workweek. (There are also state and local regulations on overtime, which can vary.)

It also defines a workweek as 40 hours—and notes that all hours worked must be paid.

Another somewhat well-known component of the FLSA is the fact that it provides exemptions from the overtime regulations just described. The primary exemptions are the so-called white-collar exemptions. These exemptions apply to employees who meet certain criteria in terms of their salary level and job duties. (Each exemption has its own specific requirements.) The main exemption categories are executive, administrative, and professional.

Probably the lesser-known rules under the FLSA relate to child labor laws. (While any employer employing minors probably knows the law, not everyone realizes that this falls under the FLSA just like minimum wage does.) Here are some of the FLSA child labor provisions:

  • For nonagricultural work, no work is allowed until the individual is at least 16 years of age.
  • Minors may not be employed in roles or industries deemed hazardous or dangerous.
  • Hours are restricted for minors when school is in session. The exact number of hours allowed varies by age and is based on whether or not school is in session.

Last but certainly not least, the FLSA requires that employers post FLSA requirements so that employees know their rights. They must also keep records to show employee hours and pay. It should also be noted that retaliation against an employee for initiating a wage and hour complaint is illegal.

Administration of the FLSA

The FLSA is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. When an employer is found to be in violation of the FLSA, the money owed can be recovered for up to 2 years before the date the lawsuit was initiated. (This goes up to 3 years in cases where the FLSA violation was deemed “willful.”) On top of back wages, damages can also be awarded—often awarded in the same sum as the back pay.

Who Is Subject to the FLSA? What Employers Are Covered?

By default, all government agencies are subject to the FLSA. Additionally, all hospitals or other facilities caring for those who are ill or disabled are subject to the FLSA, regardless of any other detail about the organization. All schools are also subject to it as well. Each of these is clearly defined in the regulations.

Beyond these types of employers, all other for-profit organizations with sales (not profits) at or exceeding half a million dollars per year are also subject to the FLSA regulations. (For these purposes, any group of businesses that are operated together or controlled by the same people constitute one enterprise.) Even if annual sales do not reach $500,000, an organization will still be subject to the FLSA if they engage in interstate commerce in any way—and this is interpreted broadly, meaning most businesses are covered. For example, it includes any business that regularly uses mail or phone for interstate communication. In short, almost all employers are covered.

*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.

About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.