The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) celebrates an anniversary

Seventry-five years ago, President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law.  According to the Department of Labor's (DOL) website, “Among several features of the law that transformed the way we work was the establishment of a national minimum wage, set at 25 cents an hour.”  It was not until 1956 that the minimum wage hit $1.00 per hour. 

Today the federal minimum wage is $7.25.  There are currently 20 states which pay more than the federal minimum wage.  In New England, these states include Vermont ($8.60), Connecticut ($8.25), Massachusetts ($8.00), Rhode Island ($7.75), and Maine ($7.50).  In addition, there are over 100 cities and towns across the US that have enacted and implemented “living wage” ordinances.  Cambridge, MA, is one such city with a “living wage” at $13.69 per hour.

The FLSA not only sets a minimum wage, it sets a standard workweek with meal break and overtime requirements, imposes recordkeeping requirements, and outlines child labor regulations which restrict the hours that children under age 16 can work and prohibits employment of children under the age of 18 in certain jobs.

FLSA, in 2013, is indeed cumbersome as this 75-year old piece of legislation bumps into 21st century work styles.  Telecommuting and mobile devices and other tools that blur how and when we work, as well as jobs that couldn’t be imagined in 1938, continue to cause employers some angst in complying with the law.  So while FLSA might be an old law enacted when the world of work looked very different, it still holds great sway today.  Its requirements on employee classifications, independent contractors, overtime requirements, documentation of hours worked, etc. are to be followed with great care in order to avoid fines, penalties, and litigation. 

History proves, time and again, that progress seldom happens in a neat and orderly fashion.  For all the regulatory intricacies developed over a long period of time, let us not forget what the FLSA set out to do and has accomplished:  to require a minimum wage, set a standardized workweek, require overtime protections, and outlaw child labor.  For further information, go to or email Beverly Purtell, senior vice president of human resources, at the League at