Fair Labor Standards
Problems That Necessitate the Policy
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was created in response to unequal and questionable working conditions in America, including child labor, extreme and unsafe working conditions, and a lack of standardized work schedules and pay scales. The FLSA required a 40-cent-an-hour minimum wage, a 40-hour maximum work week, and a minimum working age of 16 for most industries. The FLSA was designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and the livelihoods of American families by maintaining a living wage for American workers.
Facts and statistics:
A survey by the Labor Department’s Children’s Bureau in 1937 took a cross section of 449 children in several states and found that nearly one-fourth of them worked 60 hours or longer per week and only one-third worked 40 hours or less a week. The median wage was
only $4 a week.
Current Policy Description: Who is affected?
According to the Department of Labor (DOL) the most recent
version of the FLSA (revised in 2011) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards that affect full- and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local government. Most private and public employment is affected by the FLSA because it requires employers to pay at
least the federal minimum wage and
overtime pay of one and a half times the
regular rate of pay.
One-hundred thirty million workers in more
than 7 million work places are assisted
under the FLSA under two types of
coverage determined by the DOL.
Employers who have at least two
employees and make a minimum of
$500,000 a year in revenue qualify for
Enterprise Coverage. If the business is not
covered, however, the worker can still be
covered through Individual Coverage.
Employees are protected by the FLSA if
their work regularly involves “interstate
commerce” such as those sending packages
or making phone calls out of state, or
traveling for their jobs.
Federal, state, and local minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour.
“Tipped wage workers,” however, are exempt from this minimum because they receive part of their income from the tips
they receive from customers. Therefore, tipped wage is set at only $2.13 per hour plus tips. No employer is allowed to discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying men more than
women. Equal pay for equal work is expected, but with exceptions. Exceptions include seniority systems and merit
systems. The maximum work day is 8 hours
during a 40-hour work week. Anything over this is considered overtime.
According to the DOL, non-exempt employees must receive one and a
half times their regular rate of pay for overtime work.
Child and Adolescent Labor Laws:
According to the DOL youths under age 14
may not be employed in non-agricultural
occupations covered by the FLSA. Thirteen-
year-olds may act or perform, deliver
newspapers, and babysit according to
federal law. Youths who are 14 or 15 years
old may be employed outside of school
hours in “non-hazardous” jobs for limited
periods of time. They may work between 7
a.m. and 7 p.m. when it does not interfere
with school hours, up to three hours on a
school day, and up to 18 hours in a school
During school holidays they may
work full-time adult hours, that is, up to 8
hours on a non-school day and up to 40
hours in a non-school week. Youths aged 16
to 17 may be employed for unlimited hours
in any occupation other than those declared
hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. It is
illegal for minors (under age 18) to perform jobs deemed hazardous, including mining, meat packing, operating power-driven machines, roofing, and driving.
The DOL requires that employers keep records of their employees’
information, such as full name, mailing
address, birthdate, sex and occupation,
hours worked each day and week, hourly
pay rate, daily earnings, overtime earnings,
total wages paid, date of payment, and all
additions to or deductions from the
History of the FLSA
Many other policies paved the way for the
FLSA including Hammer v. Dangenhart,
Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, the New Deal,
the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA),
and others. Key players in the FLSA included
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and
Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, as well
as Senator Hugo Black of Alabama and
Representative William Connery of
Massachusetts who agreed to sponsor
earlier bills on this subject in the Senate and
It took 26 rounds and 72 amendments through Congress for the
bill to become law, but on June 25, 1938, the FDR administration claimed victory. Most of the amendments had been crafted to weaken the original bill, and in the end the bill predominately favored white
Arguments in favor
Arguments in favor of the FLSA describe equal rights for all people, including a minimum wage for all. Wage requirements and over-time pay help maintain equality amongst workers.
The Fair Minimum Wage
Act of 2013 would amend the FLSA to
increase the federal minimal wage up to
$10.10. However, the policy has had little
traction in the House and Senate. After it
was introduced in the Senate, it was
referred to the Committee on Health,
Education, Labor, and Pensions and has not
been seen since. Another argument in favor
of the FLSA involves children’s rights to
their childhoods and to education. Proponents say no youths should have to choose between school and making money.
An argument against the FLSA has to do
with limited access to paid laborers for
American farms. Farmers have few options
for laborers and farm hands. Through the
20th century, American family farms were
run by farmers and their children, but an
FLSA amendment, “Child Labor Requirements in Agricultural Occupations under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” last
amended in 2007, severely limited what
minors can do on American farms—even
those owned and operated by their parents.
Under the FLSA, minors under age 16 may
be employed outside of school hours,
without parental consent, on a farm; but
they are disallowed from performing those
agricultural tasks considered “hazardous”
by the Secretary of Labor. These hazards
include operating a standard sized tractor;
operating or assisting to operate a myriad
of agricultural machines; working in a farm
yard, pen, or stall occupied by various
animals including a cow with a newborn
calf; working from a ladder at a height of
over 20 feet; and much more. American
farms have become industrialized—little is
done without a machine—and with the
hazard regulations put forth by the FLSA
adolescents, even the children of farmers,
cannot assist with the duties of running a
Additionally, as more and more
Americans attend college and post-
graduate programs, there are fewer rural
blue collar workers to pick up the slack.
Without turning to undocumented workers,
farmers have few options when it comes to
farm laborers and they believe agricultural
jobs should be treated differently by the
Secretary of Labor and the FLSA.
At least one-fourth of Americans currently
work at jobs that do not pay a living wage.
As the cost of living has risen, minimum
wage has remained stagnant for several
years. A study released in 2014 by Oxfam
America, an anti-poverty organization,
found that increasing the federal minimum
wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour would
give roughly 25 million American workers a
raise. Nearly one in five workers in every
congressional district in America would
benefit—about 55,000 people in every
district. Raising the minimum wage would
also pump money into the economy.
When people have more money, they are able to
spend more money on goods and services,
thus, benefiting the economy.
The FLSA is a good policy, but it needs to be updated and
amended. The minimum wage is increasingly inadequate for life in modern America.
The FLSA should be amended. The federal
minimum wage should be raised to a living
wage to improve the lives of Americans and
to improve our economy. Child labor laws
for agricultural work should be amended to
allow adolescents more opportunities for
work on farms. As it currently stands, there
is little a teenager can do on her parent’s
farm in the United States, and that is
detrimental to American farmers.
These are some references that may be used
Department of Labor. (2007).
Child Labor Requirements In Agricultural Occupations Under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (Child Labor Bulletin 102).
(WH publication 1295). Retrieved
Department of Labor. (2009).
Fact Sheet #14: Coverage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Department of Labor. (2011).
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, As Amended.
publication 1318). Retrieved from
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938
. (2008). Retrieved from
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage.
(1978). Retrieved from
Why Raise Minimum Wage?
(2014). Retrieved from
Time for a Raise.
(2013). Retrieved from
United States Congress. (2013).
Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013
. Retrieved from
Each backgrounder must include:
- Problem that necessitates the policy
- What is the problem that this policy is designed to solve?
- Why does it matter?
- Facts and statistics about the problem specifically
- Policy description
- Describe the policy in its entirety (but succinctly)
- Use bulletpoints
- Who benefits, when, how, how much, how often, etc.
- History of the policy
- Brief history of how the policy came to be
- Arguments in favor and against the policy
- What do those who favor this policy say about it?
- Why is this a good policy?
- What do those who oppose this policy say about it?
- Why is this a bad policy?
- Policy evaluation including statistics – this is where you say whether this is good, bad, indifferent, inadequate, excessive, etc.
- Policy recommendations
- What should we do about this policy?
- Change it, end it, expand it?
Note that this is a very brief paper, so you must present the information in a concise manner. 4 pages only