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Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

In the workplace, the employers tend to have the upper hand. Employees need to maintain their employment in order to pay their bills, provide for their basic needs and take care of their families. Employers, knowing how much employees rely on and need their employment, may attempt to take advantage of employees in certain situations. For this reason, the federal government has passed certain laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, that help protect employee rights.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation related to employee rights. In general, its provisions relate to the minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards. The FLSA applies to private sector and government employees in the state, local and federal levels. The latest minimum wage provided for in the FLSA was established in July 2009. It mandates that all employees must be paid, at a minimum, $7.25 per hour. Individual states can set the minimum wage higher. In Washington, it's currently $9.47 for adult employees.

The FLSA also discusses overtime for employees who are classified as nonexempt. Under the law, employees in this category must be paid at a higher pay level for any hours worked beyond 40 hours per workweek. The overtime pay level is one and one-half times the regular rate of pay, and this rule applies regardless of what an employee's normal pay rate is. The FLSA does not establish a limit on the number of hours that can be worked by employees who are 16 or older, however. The FLSA also does not mandate special overtime pay for work performed on holidays or weekends, unless the work performed on those days exceeds 40 hours of work for the workweek.

In an effort to ensure that employees are aware of their rights under the FLSA, the law requires employers to post an informational poster detailing the important provisions of the FLSA. The employer is also required to take care in keeping accurate records relating to the hours worked by an employee and the pay received for the time worked.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, "Compliance Assistance - Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)," accessed Jan. 16, 2015

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