The federal Fair Labor Standards Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1938. While this law was passed more than 80 years ago, it is still among the most important laws in the U.S. Before the FLSA, the U.S. did not have national standards for such things as minimum wage, child labor, overtime, or a 40-hour workweek. This law created the modern work culture. Most workers today could not imagine what it would be like to work without having the rights under the FLSA.
However, the workplace has substantially changed since the passage of the FLSA. Congress has not updated the law to reflect the changes in the work environment. Employers continue to violate wage and hour provisions. Employees are frequently misclassified. Finally, the gig economy has changed the work landscape in ways that the FLSA did not anticipate, including what it means to be an employee. If you believe that your employer has violated the FLSA, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler can evaluate the merits of your potential claim.
The FLSA gives private and public workers the right to work under the fair labor standards. Workers have equal rights in all aspects of their jobs and the work environment. The FLSA helps workers by regulating work-related issues, including minimum wage, overtime compensation, and employers’ responsibilities for keeping accurate records. Employers must follow employment laws or risk potential criminal or civil penalties.
How the FLSA created the modern working environment
Before the FLSA was passed, people were regularly underpaid and overworked. Children and the elderly also were forced to work long hours for little pay, and the work environments were dangerous. At that time, employers were focused on productivity as a goal over the health and well-being of their employees. Some employers went so far as to stand over workers on factory floors with stopwatches to count each second that was lost.
Because of the terrible work conditions for workers of all ages, members of both parties passed the FLSA, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt subsequently signed it into law. This law worked as a compromise between workers and their families and the businesses that were underpaying and overworking their employees.
The right to a minimum wage
The FLSA established the federal minimum wage. Under this law, all covered employers in the U.S. must pay their workers a minimum of $7.25 per hour. Some states, such as New Jersey, have established higher state minimum wages. In those states, employers must follow the state law’s higher minimum wage. The FLSA’s federal minimum wage establishes a floor. Minimum wage requirements help to ensure that workers are aware of the minimum amount that they will earn for each hour of work. Some workers are paid tipped wages, which can be less than the minimum wage. However, their tips combined with the tipped wages must equal at least the minimum wage. If they do not, the employers must make up the difference so that the employees receive the federal or state minimum wage for where they work. Employers that pay workers the guaranteed minimum wage for their services can claim tip credits. This helps to protect workers by making sure that they receive the minimum wage even if they do not make good tips.
Right to work a reasonable number of hours
The FLSA also offers some protection to workers so that they will work a reasonable number of hours each week. The protection is particularly robust for young workers. Workers who are under the age of 16 have limitations on the number of hours that they are allowed to work on school and non-school days.
While employers are allowed to set the number of hours that their workers will work during the week, they must pay their workers overtime pay for the number of hours that they work during a workweek above 40. The overtime premium is equal to 50% of the worker’s regular hourly rate. This means that overtime compensation for the hours that are worked above 40 in a week must be paid at a rate of one-and-one-half times the regular rate of pay.
Some employers routinely misclassify their workers as independent contractors instead of as employees. Employers that do this are trying to get around the requirements of the FLSA and other employment laws. Employers that purposely misclassify workers may receive civil or criminal penalties for their actions.
Employer compliance with the FLSA
Employers must comply with the provisions of the FLSA and the regulations that have been promulgated under it. Without the FLSA, it would be more difficult to prevent unfair employment practices because workers would not have recourse to seek remedies. The U.S. Department of Labor offers compliance tools to employers. Employers can use them to make certain that they comply with the FLSA. Complying with the law means paying workers at least the minimum wage, classifying them correctly, paying overtime compensation, and maintaining proper records.
Get help from Swartz Swidler
The FLSA has helped to ensure that workers are protected in terms of their hours and wages. If you believe that your employer is violating the FLSA, you may have legal rights. Contact the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to schedule a consultation by calling us at 856.685.7420 or by filling out our contact form.