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The Development of the Fair Labor Standards Act

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The Development of the Fair Labor Standards Act

Miriam Libonati

The Employer-Employee relationship has been around for hundreds of years. As the workforce evolved, new jobs were created, professional relationships advanced, and regulations were developed to ensure fair and honest employment standards. In the early 1900's congress passed an act that would revolutionize the workforce: the FLSA. The FLSA, Fair Labor Standards Act was developed to provide barriers on hours per week while enforcing a minimum wage standard for workers of all trades as well as ensuring child laborers were no longer exploited. The FLSA's introduction to the world of employment was one of the most beneficial contributions to working individuals of all statures.

The FLSA was approved by congress in June of 1938. Hugo Black, a senator of Alabama, pioneered this piece of legislation into effect to avoid workers from being over-worked and under-paid. Franklin D. Roosevelt described the FLSA as being "the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted in this or any other country (u-s-history.com, 2006)." During this era in time industrial workers were faced with unjust work environments causing tension between individuals and employers, resulting in sit-down strikes and protests that ended up in violent legal situations. Seeing the rise in protesting activities, the FLSA was created to minimize these epidemics, and to resolve conflicts within industries such as, but not limited to, the coal and steel industries.

The initial launch of this act standardized a base minimum wage of $0.25 per hour, and enforcing a maximum limit on a 44-hour workweek. However, these wage and hour stipulations mostly affected a percentage of white males, in comparison to women and blacks within the workforce. The percentage of white males (39%) that were influenced, was much more significant than the percentage of women affected (14%). Since women and blacks were often excluded from the "unionized industrial jobs," the FLSA was not beneficial to everyone. Yet as time passed, the rate increased. 7 years after the act had been passed the minimum wage increased to $0.40 per hour, and lowering maximum workweeks at 40 hours.

Since the regulations of pay, work hours, and over-time were gaining importance; the FLSA was continually scrutinized by the court systems. Prior to the introduction of this act minimum wage standards, the limiting of hours worked, and child labor requirements were dismissed and opposed by the Supreme Court system in addition to several southern congressional members who believed the acceptance of policies, such as those later enforced by the FLSA, were not only inconvenient, but also to costly to implement into the workforce. Yet, after years of legal battles and considerable attempts to initiate workforce legislation, such as the NRA (National Industrial Recovery Act) and the "National Employment System Act" (1933), the Supreme Courts began to enforce the FLSA to a greater extent.

In the following decades, the FLSA continually modified and improved workers benefits in numerous divisions within the workforce. Some of the most significant revisions were:

1. "The transfer of functions of the Children's Bureau and of the Chief of the Children's Bureau to the Secretary of Labor in 1946."

2. "The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits the discrimination of employees on the basis of gender for their rate of pay."

3. "Fair Labor Standards Amendment of 1966, which prohibits the discrimination of employees on the basis of their age for their rate of pay."

4. "The Minimum Wage Increase Act of 1996, which raised the minimum wage paid to $5.15 per hour." (u-s-history.com, 2006)

The implementation of these amendments resulted in increased minimum wage, improved regular and overtime standards, a more balanced pay scale between men and women, and an age minimum for all children actively working.

In 1985, the FLSA regulations were extended to both state and local governments. This was a major stepping-stone for workers, since prior to 1985; state and local laws did not protect individuals. With the recognition and control now active within the local governments, minimum wages and overtime regulations would be enforced and even increased by region.

Although, the minimum wage has improved through time, the active conflicts seem to mostly involve the provisions of overtime requirements. Workers were either of exempt or non-exempt status. Exempt employees were unable to receive overtime pay over 40 hours where as non-exempt employees were required by law to received this compensation. In the early 1900's workers that were considered "exempt" from overtime pay were agricultural and seasonal laborers, yet as our nation evolved, so did the working class. Today workers considered to be of exempt status are employed in the following positions:

Ð'* Executive

Ð'* Administrative

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