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Fair Labor Standards Act

Fair Labor Standards Act or Wages and Hours Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1938 to establish minimum living standards for workers engaged directly or indirectly in interstate commerce, including those involved in production of goods bound for such commerce. A major provision of the act was establishment of a minimum wage, initially $0.25 an hour, along with a maximum workweek of 44 hours; these were to become to become $0.40 an hour and 40 hours after seven years. Other provisions set standards for overtime compensation and banned products of child labor from interstate commerce. A Wage and Hour Division was created in the Dept. of Labor, headed by an administrator empowered to accelerate the raising of standards within an industry if a committee representing the public as well as employers and labor recommended change. Classes of workers initially exempt from the act included agricultural and seasonal laborers, handlers of perishable foods, and workers in certain industries covered by collective bargaining. The Fair Labor Standards Act has been amended repeatedly in subsequent decades, with changes expanding the classes of workers covered; raising the minimum wage; redefining regular-time work and raising overtime payments so as to encourage the hiring of new workers, as opposed to the loading of extra work on the lowest-paid; and equalizing pay scales for men and women.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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