Who Is Covered By the Fair Labor Standards Act?

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More than 130 million American workers are protected (or "covered") by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The FLSA controls the wages and hours an employee is allowed to work each work-week. It sets a minimum wage standard, provides for maximum hours to be worked, and requires that overtime pay be paid to employees working in excess of 40 hours per week. It also provides rules and penalties for unpaid wages. Finally, the FLSA also creates rules regarding unequal pay based upon the sex of the employee.

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Who is Covered by the FLSA: There are two ways in which an employee can be covered by the law: "enterprise coverage" and "individual coverage."

Enterprise Coverage:Employees who work for certain businesses or organizations (or "enterprises") are covered by the FLSA. These enterprises, which must have at least two employees, are:

  1. those that have an annual dollar volume of sales or business done of at least $500,000;

  2. hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools and preschools, and government agencies.

Individual Coverage:Even when there is no enterprise coverage, employees are protected by the FLSA if their work regularly involves them in commerce between States ("interstate commerce"). The FLSA covers individual workers who are "engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce."

  1. Examples of employees who are involved in interstate commerce include those who: produce goods (such as a worker assembling components in a factory or a secretary typing letters in an office) that will be sent out of state, regularly make telephone calls to persons located in other States, handle records of interstate transactions, travel to other States on their jobs, and do janitorial work in buildings where goods are produced for shipment outside the State.

  2. Also, domestic service workers (such as housekeepers, full-time babysitters, and cooks) are normally covered by the law.

Exemptions:There are many positions and job types that are not covered by the FLSA. Some of these positions have exceptions, while others do not. Because there are so many exempted positions and the exceptions are very complicated, you should consult an attorney to determine if you are considered an exempt employee or whether you fit within an exception to the exemption.

Some of the categories of exempt employees cover those individuals who are employed in the following occupations:

  • A bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity (including any employee employed in the capacity of academic administrative personnel or teacher in elementary or secondary schools), or
  • in the capacity of outside salesman; or
  • any employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment, organized camp, or religious or nonprofit educational conference center; or
  • any employee employed in the catching, taking, propagating, harvesting, cultivating, or farming of any type of fish, shellfish, crustacea, sponges, seaweeds or other aquatic forms of animal and vegetable life or in the first processing, canning or packing any of these products; or
  • any employee employed in agriculture.

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