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Fair Labor Standards Act
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also Federal Wage and Hour Law,
measure enacted by the United States Congress in 1938 to eliminate
labor conditions injurious to the health and efficiency of workers,
and unfair methods of competition based on these conditions. The
act prohibited the introduction into interstate commerce of goods
produced in violation of its provisions. It provided for a minimum
wage of 25 cents an hour, required the payment of overtime at
a rate of at least time and one half the regular rate of pay for
hours in any work week in excess of 44, and prohibited "oppressive
child labor." A subsequent increase of the minimum wage to
40 cents, and a decrease in the maximum nonovertime hours to 40,
was incorporated in the original law. Over the years the act has
been amended periodically to raise the minimum wage, reduce the
hours that could be worked without overtime pay, and extend the
coverage to many more low-income workers. The Equal Pay Act of
1963 also amended the FLSA by prohibiting wage differentials based
II EXEMPTIONS The act contains exemptions from its provisions
for executive, administrative, professional, and academic employees;
certain farm workers; full-time students; learners and apprentices;
handicapped workers; and workers in some specialized or seasonal
employment. In Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa,
industry-wage orders calling for subminimum rates may be fixed.
The act also gives partial exemptions from the overtime-pay provisions
for workers in industries that are found by the secretary of labor
to be seasonal, as well as for persons working under union contracts
specifying certain hours, and attained through the process of
collective bargaining by a union certified by the National Labor
III OPPRESSIVE CHILD LABOR Oppressive child labor is generally
defined as the employment of children under the age of 16, except
for children between 14 and 16 years of age working under nonhazardous
conditions that do not interfere with their schooling, health,
or well-being. The minimum age for employment in hazardous occupations
is 18. Children of any age may, however, be employed as theatrical
performers and may work in agriculture outside school hours.
Enforcement is the responsibility of the Wage and Hour Division
of the U.S. Department of Labor. Willful violations of the law
are punishable by fines and imprisonment.
IV CONTROVERSY As the minimum wage has risen, the law has increasingly
come under attack. Critics contend that the minimum wage limits
employment opportunities, especially for young people and the
elderly. Most workers, however, favor a minimum wage as being
necessary to maintain an adequate standard of living.
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