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Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Overview


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The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, equal pay provisions, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

Minimum Wage

NOTE: The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 amended the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage in three steps: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. A separate provision of the bill will bring about phased increases to the minimum wage in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and American Samoa, with the goal of bringing the minimum wage in those locations up to the general federal minimum wage over a number of years. These are the first increases in minimum wage since it became $5.15 in 1997. See the Minimum Wage History document below for all historical rates.

Covered, nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $5.85 an hour (effective July 24, 2007).

Employees under 20 years of age may be paid $4.25 per hour 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.

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 special certificates issued by the Department of Labor. See the Special Minimum Wages (SMW) topic for additional information about subminimum wages for workers with disabilities, and see the Certification for Special Minimum Wages topic for additional information about the certification process.

Employers of "tipped employees" must pay a cash wage of at least $2.13 per hour if they claim a tip credit against their minimum wage obligation. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's cash wage of at least $2.13 per hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Certain other conditions must also be met.

NOTE: A table showing historical rates and coverage changes of the minimum wage is available within the WorkWORLD Help/Information system. Viewing the table requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click this link to see the Historical Minimum Wage Table.

Overtime Pay

Overtime pay at a rate of not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.

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. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these provisions, as well as other statutes prohibiting discrimination in employment. More detailed information is available from its offices, which are listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government.

See the Equal Pay Act section of the Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination topic for additional information about the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Child Labor

An employee must be at least 16 years old to work in most non-farm jobs and at least 18 to work in non-farm jobs declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Youths 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs under the following conditions:

No more than -

          3 hours on a school day or 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. or end after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m. Different rules apply in agricultural employment.

See the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Child Labor topic for more comprehensive information.


Every covered employer must keep certain records for each non-exempt worker. The Act requires no particular form for the records, but does require that the records include certain identifying information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The law requires this information to be accurate. The following is a listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain:

          Employee's full name and social security number.

          Address, including zip code.

          Birth date, if younger than 19.

          Sex and occupation.

          Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins.

          Hours worked each day.

          Total hours worked each workweek.

          Basis on which employee's wages are paid (e.g., "$6 an hour", "$220 a week", "piecework")

          Regular hourly pay rate.

          Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings.

          Total overtime earnings for the workweek.

          All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages.

          Total wages paid each pay period.

          Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment.


The Department of Labor may recover back wages, either administratively or through court action, for the employees that have been underpaid in violation of the law. Violations may result in civil or criminal action.

Fines of up to $10,000 per violation may be assessed against employers who violate the child labor provisions of the law and up to $1,000 per violation against employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay provisions. This law prohibits discriminating against or discharging workers who file a complaint or participate in any proceedings under the Act.

Certain occupations and establishments are exempt from the minimum wage and/or overtime pay provisions.

Special provisions apply to workers in American Samoa and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Where state law requires a higher minimum wage, the higher standard applies.

Additional Information

For additional information, you may call the U.S. DOL Wage-Hour toll-free information and helpline, available 8am to 5pm in your time zone, at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

You may also visit the DOL Wage-Hour website at:

For more information about the application of the FLSA, contact your local U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour District Office. It is listed in most telephone directories under United States Government, Labor Department. Contact information and service areas, listed by State, are also available online at:

The complete text of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 201, et seq.), as well as its history and additional provisions related to it, is available in several PDF documents online (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) at:

Extensive DOL regulations concerning the FLSA (29 CFR Chapter 5) are available online, beginning with the Table of Contents at:

Also see:

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Coverage

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Exemptions

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - FAQ

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Child Labor

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Special Minimum Wages

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Certification for Special Minimum Wages


Information for this topic was drawn from the U.S. DOL website at:

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