The Fair Labor Standards Act

The United States Department of Labor enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to legislate guidelines pertaining to minimum wage, overtime pay, youth employment and recordkeeping. The Labor Department is responsible for articulating the definition of hours worked. The FLSA language indicates that this legislation has been installed to “protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce.”

Define Hours Worked

Workers are compensated according to hours worked. The FLSA defines work as “all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises.” Employees are to be compensated for all time spent at the workplace, including when they are “on call” for a particular job site. Employees also get paid for “waiting time,” when they are not actually performing an assignment, but remain idle until tasks are doled out.

The FLSA says that workers may be paid for 20-minute rest periods. However, 30-minute breaks for meals are not included as payable time for hours worked.

Set Minimum Wage

Employees are to be paid out at least the minimum wage, for up to 40 hours worked, per week. On July 24, 2009, The Fair Labor Standards Act set U.S. minimum wages at $7.25 per hour. Lawmakers do maintain jurisdiction to set minimum wage rates at the State level. State mandates, however, must enforce for higher pay scales than Federal minimum wage mandates.

Calculate Overtime Pay

Overtime is defined as work exceeding 40 hours per week, for any 7-day, or 168-hour time frame. Overtime pay is calculated at a rate that is at least one and one half times that of regular wages. In terms of a work schedule, no set time limits exist for employees above sixteen years of age.

Youth Employment

Child labor laws safeguard the educational opportunities and general well being of the nation’s youth. Child labor legislation sets limits according to age and the type of work. 16 and 17-year-olds may participate within nonhazardous occupations for unlimited amounts of time. Hazardous activity related to operating heavy machinery and power-driven hoists, however, does carry particular age restrictions.

14 and 15-year-old youngsters are generally limited to employment within the recreational sector. These youth cannot work during school hours and are limited to 18-hour workweeks during the school year. These 18-hour workweeks are extended to 40-hour maximums through the summer months. Employers, however, are prohibited from scheduling 14 and 15-year-old employees to report to work before 7 a.m.

Youth of all ages may work within nonhazardous occupations for their parents. Youngsters are often employed as performers, models, deliver boys, babysitters, and domestic workers.


Federal law mandates that employers post the Fair Labor Standards Act at the job site. Employers keep records pertaining to hours worked and wages paid out to employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act also requires employers to preserve payroll records for at least three years.