Summary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay,
recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting full-time and part-time
workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.
The Wage and Hour Division (Wage-Hour) administers and enforces FLSA with
respect to private employment, State and local government employment, and
Federal employees of the Library of Congress, U.S. Postal Service, Postal
Rate Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The FLSA is enforced
by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for employees of other Executive
Branch agencies, and by the U.S. Congress for covered employees of the Legislative
Special rules apply to State and local government employment involving
fire protection and law enforcement activities, volunteer services, and
compensatory time off instead of cash overtime pay.
Basic Wage Standards
Covered, nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less
than $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; $6.55 per hour effective July
24, 2008; and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Special provisions
apply to workers in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands. Nonexempt workers must be paid overtime pay at a rate of
not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay after 40
hours of work in a workweek.
Wages required by FLSA are due on the regular payday for the pay period
covered. Deductions made from wages for such items as cash or merchandise
shortages, employer-required uniforms, and tools of the trade, are not legal
to the extent that they reduce the wages of employees below the minimum
rate required by FLSA or reduce the amount of overtime pay due under FLSA.
The FLSA contains some exemptions from these basic standards. Some apply
to specific types of businesses; others apply to specific kinds of work.
While FLSA does set basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards and regulates
the employment of minors, there are a number of employment practices which
FLSA does not regulate.
For example, FLSA does not require:
- vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay;
- meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations;
- premium pay for weekend or holiday work;
- pay raises or fringe benefits; or
- a discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final
wages to terminated
The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an
employee's usual or promised wages or commissions in excess of those required
by the FLSA. However, some States do have laws under which such claims (sometimes
including fringe benefits) may be filed.
Also, FLSA does not limit the number of hours in a day or days in a week
an employee may be required or scheduled to work, including overtime hours,
if the employee is at least 16 years old.
The above matters are for agreement between the employer and the employees
or their authorized representatives.
Who is Covered?
All employees of certain enterprises having workers engaged in interstate
commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling,
or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced
for such commerce by any person, are covered by FLSA.
A covered enterprise is the related activities performed through unified
operation or common control by any person or persons for a common business
purpose and -
- whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is not less
than $500,000 (exclusive of excise taxes at the retail level that are separately stated); or
- is engaged in the operation of a hospital, an institution primarily
engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, or the mentally ill who reside on the premises; a school for mentally
or physically disabled or gifted children; a preschool, an elementary or secondary school, or an institution
of higher education (whether operated for profit or not for profit); or
- is an activity of a public agency.
Any enterprise that was covered by FLSA on March 31, 1990, and that ceased
to be covered because of the revised $500,000 test, continues to be subject
to the overtime pay, child labor and recordkeeping provisions of FLSA.
Employees of firms which are not covered enterprises under FLSA still
may be subject to its minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child
labor provisions if they are individually engaged in interstate commerce
or in the production of goods for interstate commerce, or in any closely-related
process or occupation directly essential to such production. Such employees
include those who: work in communications or transportation; regularly use
the mails, telephones, or telegraph for interstate communication, or keep
records of interstate transactions; handle, ship, or receive goods moving
in interstate commerce; regularly cross State lines in the course of employment;
or work for independent employers who contract to do clerical, custodial,
maintenance, or other work for firms engaged in interstate commerce or in
the production of goods for interstate commerce.
Domestic service workers such as day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs,
cooks, or full-time babysitters are covered if:
- their cash wages from one employer in calendar year 2007 are at least
$1,500 (this calendar year threshold is adjusted by the Social Security
Administration each year); or
- they work a total of more than 8 hours a week for one or more employers.
Tipped employees are individuals engaged in occupations in which they
customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. The employer
may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13
an hour in direct wages.
The employer who elects to use the tip credit provision must inform the
employee in advance and must be able to show that the employee receives
at least the applicable minimum wage (see above) when direct wages and the
tip credit allowance are combined. If an employee's tips combined with the
employer's direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum
hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Also, employees must
retain all of their tips, except to the extent that they participate in
a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement.
The reasonable cost or fair value of board, lodging, or other facilities
customarily furnished by the employer for the employee's benefit may be
considered part of wages.
The performance of certain types of work in an employee's home is prohibited
under the law unless the employer has obtained prior certification from
the Department of Labor. Restrictions apply in the manufacture of knitted
outerwear, gloves and mittens, buttons and buckles, handkerchiefs, embroideries,
and jewelry (where safety and health hazards are not involved). The manufacture
of women's apparel (and jewelry under hazardous conditions) is generally
prohibited. If you have questions on whether a certain type of work is restricted,
or who is eligible for a homework certificate, or how to obtain a certificate,
you may contact the local Wage-Hour office.
Subminimum Wage Provisions
The FLSA provides for the employment of certain individuals at wage rates
below the statutory minimum. Such individuals include student-learners (vocational
education students), as well as full-time students in retail or service
establishments, agriculture, or institutions of higher education. Also included
are individuals whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by a physical
or mental disability, including those related to age or injury, for the
work to be performed. Employment at less than the minimum wage is authorized
to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment. Such employment
is permitted only under certificates issued by Wage-Hour.
Youth Minimum Wage
A minimum wage of not less than $4.25 an hour is permitted for employees
under 20 years of age during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of
employment with an employer. Employers are prohibited from taking any action
to displace employees in order to hire employees at the youth minimum wage.
Also prohibited are partial displacements such as reducing employees' hours,
wages, or employment benefits.
Some employees are exempt from the overtime pay provisions or both the
minimum wage and overtime pay provisions.
Because exemptions are generally narrowly defined under FLSA, an employer
should carefully check the exact terms and conditions for each. Detailed
information is available from local Wage-Hour offices.
Following are examples of exemptions which are illustrative, but not all-inclusive.
These examples do not define the conditions for each exemption.
Exemptions from Both Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay
administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic
administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside
sales employees, and employees in certain computer-related occupations
(as defined in Department of Labor regulations);
of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments, employees
of certain small newspapers, seamen employed on foreign vessels, employees
engaged in fishing operations, and employees engaged in newspaper delivery;
employed by anyone who used no more than 500 "man-days" of farm labor
in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year;
- Casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly
Exemptions from Overtime Pay Only
- Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments;
auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers;
or parts-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks, or farm implements,
who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged
in selling these items to ultimate purchasers;
- Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees
of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees
paid on approved trip rate plans;
- Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan
- Domestic service workers living in the employer's residence;
- Employees of motion picture theaters; and
Partial Exemptions from Overtime Pay
- Partial overtime pay exemptions apply to employees engaged in certain
operations on agricultural commodities and to employees of certain bulk
- Hospitals and residential care establishments may adopt, by agreement
with their employees, a 14-day work period instead of the usual 7-day
workweek if the employees are paid at least time and one-half their regular
rates for hours worked over 8 in a day or 80 in a 14-day work period,
whichever is the greater number of overtime hours.
- Employees who lack a high school diploma, or who have not attained
the educational level of the 8th grade, can be required to spend up to
10 hours in a workweek engaged in remedial reading or training in other
basic skills without receiving time and one-half overtime pay for these
hours. However, the employees must receive their normal wages for hours
spent in such training and the training must not be job specific.
- Public agency fire departments and police departments
may establish a work period ranging from 7 to 28 days in which overtime
need only be paid after a specified number of hours in each work period.
Youth Employment (Child Labor) Provisions
The FLSA youth employment provisions are designed to protect the educational
opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs and under
conditions detrimental to their health or well-being. The provisions include
restrictions on hours of work for minors under 16 and lists of hazardous
occupations orders for both farm and non-farm jobs declared by the Secretary
of Labor to be too dangerous for minors to perform. Further information
on prohibited occupations is available from http://www.youthrules.dol.gov.
Nonagricultural Jobs (Youth Employment)
Regulations governing youth employment in non-farm jobs differ somewhat
from those pertaining to agricultural employment. In non-farm work, the
permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, are as follows:
- Youths 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or
not, for unlimited hours;
- Youths 16 and 17 years old may perform any nonhazardous job, for unlimited
- Youths 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various
nonmanufacturing, nonmining, nonhazardous jobs under the following conditions:
no more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours
on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. Also, work may
not begin before 7 a.m., nor end after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through
Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m. Under a special provision,
youths 14 and 15 years old enrolled in an approved Work Experience and
Career Exploration Program (WECEP) may be employed for up to 23 hours
in school weeks and 3 hours on school days (including during school hours).
Fourteen is the minimum age for most non-farm work. However, at any age,
youths may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical
productions; work for parents in their solely-owned non-farm business (except
in manufacturing or on hazardous jobs); or gather evergreens and make evergreen
Farm Jobs (Youth Employment)
In farm work, permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, are as follows:
- Youths 16 years and older may perform any job, whether hazardous or
not, for unlimited hours;
- Youths 14 and 15 years old may perform any nonhazardous farm job outside
of school hours;
- Youths 12 and 13 years old may work outside of school hours in nonhazardous
jobs, either with a parent's written consent or on the same farm as the
- Youths under 12 years old may perform jobs on farms owned or operated
by parent(s), or with a parent's written consent, outside of school hours
in nonhazardous jobs on farms not covered by minimum wage requirements.
Minors of any age may be employed by their parents at any time in any occupation
on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
The FLSA requires employers to keep records on wages, hours, and other
items, as specified in Department of Labor recordkeeping regulations. Most
of the information is of the kind generally maintained by employers in ordinary
business practice and in compliance with other laws and regulations. The
records do not have to be kept in any particular form and time clocks need
not be used. With respect to an employee subject to the minimum wage provisions
or both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions, the following records
must be kept:
- personal information, including employee's name, home address, occupation,
sex, and birth date if under 19 years of age;
- hour and day when workweek begins;
- total hours worked each workday and each workweek;
- total daily or weekly straight-time earnings;
- regular hourly pay rate for any week when overtime is worked;
- total overtime pay for the workweek;
- deductions from or additions to wages;
- total wages paid each pay period; and
- date of payment and pay period covered.
Records required for exempt employees differ from those for nonexempt
workers. Special information is required for homeworkers, for employees
working under uncommon pay arrangements, for employees to whom lodging or
other facilities are furnished, and for employees receiving remedial education.
Terms Used in FLSA
Workweek - A workweek is a period of 168 hours during 7 consecutive
24-hour periods. It may begin on any day of the week and at any hour of
the day established by the employer. Generally, for purposes of minimum
wage and overtime payment, each workweek stands alone; there can be no averaging
of 2 or more workweeks. Employee coverage, compliance with wage payment
requirements, and the application of most exemptions are determined on a
Hours Worked - Covered employees must be paid for all hours
worked in a workweek. In general, "hours worked" includes all time an employee
must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed
place of work, from the beginning of the first principal activity of the
work day to the end of the last principal work activity of the workday.
Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered
or permitted) to work.
Computing Overtime Pay
Overtime must be paid at a rate of at least one and one-half times the
employee's regular rate of pay for each hour worked in a workweek in excess
of the maximum allowable in a given type of employment. Generally, the regular
rate includes all payments made by the employer to or on behalf of the employee
(except for certain statutory exclusions). The following examples are based
on a maximum 40-hour workweek applicable to most covered nonexempt employees.
- Hourly rate (regular pay rate for an employee paid by the hour)
- If more than 40 hours are worked, at least one and one-half times the
regular rate for each hour over 40 is due.
Example: An employee paid $8.00 an hour works 44 hours in a workweek.
The employee is entitled to at least one and one-half times $8.00, or
$12.00, for each hour over 40. Pay for the week would be $320 for the
first 40 hours, plus $48.00 for the four hours of overtime - a total of
- Piece rate - The regular rate of pay for an employee paid on
a piecework basis is obtained by dividing the total weekly earnings by
the total number of hours worked in that week. The employee is entitled
to an additional one-half times this regular rate for each hour over 40,
plus the full piecework earnings.
Example: An employee paid on a piecework basis works 45 hours in
a week and earns $405. The regular rate of pay for that week is $405 divided
by 45, or $9.00 an hour. In addition to the straight-time pay, the employee
is also entitled to $4.50 (half the regular rate) for each hour over 40
- an additional $22.50 for the 5 overtime hours - for a total of $427.50.
Another way to compensate pieceworkers for overtime, if agreed to before
the work is performed, is to pay one and one-half times the piece rate
for each piece produced during the overtime hours. The piece rate must
be the one actually paid during nonovertime hours and must be enough to
yield at least the minimum wage per hour.
- Salary - The regular rate for an employee paid a salary for
a regular or specified number of hours a week is obtained by dividing
the salary by the number of hours for which the salary is intended to
compensate. The employee is entitled to an additional one-half times this
regular rate for each hour over 40, plus the salary.
If, under the employment agreement, a salary sufficient to meet the minimum
wage requirement in every workweek is paid as straight time for whatever
number of hours are worked in a workweek, the regular rate is obtained by
dividing the salary by the number of hours worked each week. To illustrate,
suppose an employee's hours of work vary each week and the agreement with
the employer is that the employee will be paid $480 a week for whatever
number of hours of work are required. Under this agreement, the regular
rate will vary in overtime weeks. If the employee works 50 hours, the regular
rate is $9.60 ($480 divided by 50 hours). In addition to the salary, half
the regular rate, or $4.80, is due for each of the 10 overtime hours, for
a total of $528 for the week. If the employee works 60 hours, the regular
rate is $8.00 ($480 divided by 60 hours). In that case, an additional $4.00
is due for each of the 20 overtime hours for a total of $560 for the week.
In no case may the regular rate be less than the minimum wage required
If a salary is paid on other than a weekly basis, the weekly pay must
be determined in order to compute the regular rate and overtime pay. If
the salary is for a half month, it must be multiplied by 24 and the product
divided by 52 weeks to get the weekly equivalent. A monthly salary should
be multiplied by 12 and the product divided by 52.
Wage-Hour's enforcement of FLSA is carried out by investigators stationed
across the U.S. As Wage-Hour's authorized representatives, they conduct
investigations and gather data on wages, hours, and other employment conditions
or practices, in order to determine compliance with the law. Where violations
are found, they also may recommend changes in employment practices to bring
an employer into compliance.
It is a violation to fire or in any other manner discriminate against
an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding
Willful violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined
up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.
Violators of the youth employment provisions are subject to a civil money
penalty of up to $11,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation.
Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime
pay requirements are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,100 for
each such violation.
The FLSA prohibits the shipment of goods in interstate commerce which
were produced in violation of the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor,
or special minimum wage provisions.
Recovery of Back Wages
Listed below are methods which FLSA provides for recovering unpaid minimum
and/or overtime wages.
- Wage-Hour may supervise payment of back wages.
- The Secretary of Labor may bring suit for back wages and an equal amount
as liquidated damages.
- An employee may file a private suit for back pay and an equal amount
as liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.
- The Secretary of Labor may obtain an injunction to restrain any person
from violating FLSA, including the unlawful withholding of proper minimum
wage and overtime pay.
An employee may not bring suit if he or she has accepted back wages under
the supervision of Wage-Hour or if the Secretary of Labor has already filed
suit to recover the wages.
A 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back pay, except
in the case of willful violation, in which case a 3-year statute applies.
Other Labor Laws
In addition to FLSA, Wage-Hour enforces and administers a number of other
labor laws. Among these are:
- the Davis-Bacon
and Related Acts, which require payment of prevailing wage rates
and fringe benefits on federally-financed or assisted construction;
- the Walsh-Healey
Public Contracts Act, which requires payment of minimum wage rates
and overtime pay on contracts to provide goods to the Federal Government;
- the Service
Contract Act, which requires payment of prevailing wage rates
and fringe benefits on contracts to provide services to the Federal Government;
- the Contract
Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, which sets overtime standards
for service and construction contracts;
- the Migrant
and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which protects
farm workers by imposing certain requirements on agricultural employers
and associations and requires the registration of crewleaders who must
also provide the same worker protections;
- the Wage
Garnishment Law, which limits the amount of an individual's income
that may be legally garnished and prohibits firing an employee whose pay
is garnished for payment of a single debt;
- the Employee
Polygraph Protection Act, which prohibits most private employers
from using any type of lie detector test either for pre-employment screening
of job applicants or for testing current employees during the course of
- the Family and
Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees of covered
employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave each year,
with maintenance of group health insurance, for the birth and care of
a child, for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, for
the care of a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition,
or for the employee's serious health condition; and
- the Immigration
and Nationality Act, as amended, which:
- under the H-2A provisions, provides
for the enforcement of contractual obligations of job offers which have
been certified to by employers of temporary alien nonimmigrant agricultural
- under the H-1C provisions, provides for the enforcement of employment
conditions attested to by employers in disadvantaged areas employing H-1C
temporary alien nonimmigrant registered nurses;
- under the D-1 provisions, provides for the enforcement of employment
conditions attested to by employers seeking to employ alien crewmembers
to perform specified longshore activity at U.S. ports; and
- under the H-1B provisions, provides for the enforcement of labor condition applications filed by
employers wishing to employ aliens in specialty occupations and as fashion
models of distinguished merit and ability.
More detailed information on FLSA and other laws administered by Wage-Hour
is available by calling the DOL's toll-free help line 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243).
For those who have access to the Internet, further information may also
be obtained on the Wage and Hour Division Internet Home Page which can be
located at the following address:
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996
In accordance with the provisions of the SBREFA, the Small Business Administration
established a National Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Ombudsman
and 10 Regional Fairness Boards to receive comments from small entities
about federal agency enforcement actions. The Ombudsman annually evaluates
enforcement activities and rates each agency's responsiveness to small entities.
Small entities wishing to comment on Wage and Hour Division enforcement
activities may call 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247), or write the Office
of the National Ombudsman, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 3rd Street,
SW, MC2120, Washington, DC 20416-0005, or visit the Ombudsman's internet
The right to file a comment with the Ombudsman is in addition to any other
rights a small entity may have, including the right to contest the assessment
of a civil money penalty. Filing a comment with the Ombudsman neither extends
the maximum time period for contesting the assessment of a penalty, nor
takes the place of filing the response required to secure an administrative
hearing on a penalty. The Wage and Hour Division does not consider filing
of a comment with the Ombudsman as a factor in determining how to resolve
issues raised during a compliance action.
Equal Pay Provisions
The equal pay provisions of FLSA prohibit sex-based wage differentials
between men and women employed in the same establishment who perform jobs
that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which are performed
under similar working conditions. These provisions, as well as other statutes
prohibiting discrimination in employment, are enforced by the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. More detailed information is available from its
offices which are listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government.
| Last accessed: February 7, 2009.
Information on this website is provided for information purposes only, and its presentation herein neither creates an attorney-client privilege nor constitutes legal advice.