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Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") of 1938 is federal legislation of the United States. The FLSA established a national minimum wage, guaranteed time and a half for overtime, and prohibited most employment of minors. The law originally contained a large number of special industry exemptions, many of which were designed to protect traditional pay practices in small, rural businesses. The bulk of these exemptions have been repealed. Currently, the most important issues relate to the so-called "white collar" exemptions applicable to professional, administrative and executive employees.

The FLSA is administered by the Wage & Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor, which conducts audits and workplace inspections. The Administrator of the Wage & Hour Division has no unilateral enforcement authority, but may bring a lawsuit in federal court. As a practical matter, this is relatively rare. The FLSA provides for direct federal actions by employees, and offers substantial financial incentives for private litigants and their counsel.

The most contentious issues in recent years relate to technical employees, such as computer programmers, who have a significant degree of specialized knowledge without formal academic credentials. Such employees often exercise no direct management or even administrative authority, and so are arguably ineligible for any of the FLSA white collar exemptions. By legislative amendment, some employees of this sort are now exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA, but many unsettled issues remain. ATW021019.