The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended, requires
that most employees in the U.S. be paid a minimum hourly wage and
premium overtime pay after 40 hours in a workweek.
Over 80 million nonsupervisory employees are subject to the minimum
wage; 69.7 million are in the private sector and 10.9 million are
employed in the public sector.
On April 1, 1991, the minimum wage increased from $3.80 an hour to
$4.25 an hour (some states and the District of Columbia have higher
minimum wages; those wages prevail over the Federal minimum wage).
Employees covered by the FLSA generally are entitled to overtime pay
for all hours worked over 40 in one workweek. Overtime pay must
equal at least one and one-half times an employee's regular rate of
pay. There is no limit to the number of hours per day or days per
week an adult employee may be required to work.
Covered employees are:
-- employees engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of
goods for interstate commerce (i.e., goods that travel across state
lines), regardless of the employer's annual volume of business;
-- employees who work for enterprises that have an annual gross
volume of sales made or business done of over $500,000;
-- employees of hospitals, residential facilities that care for those
who are physically or mentally ill or disabled, or aged, schools for
children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted, pre-
schools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher
education regardless of the annual volume of business;
-- employees of public agencies.
Certain executive, administrative and professional employees and
outside salespeople are exempt from both the minimum wage and
overtime pay standards:
-- employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational
establishments, employees of certain small newspapers, switchboard
operators of small telephone companies, seamen employed on foreign
vessels, and employees engaged in fishing operations;
-- casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the
elderly or infirm.
Most farmworkers do not have to be paid overtime but must be paid at
least the minimum wage for all hours worked.
Certain full-time students, students in vocational education
programs, and workers with disabilities may be paid less than the
minimum wage if employers obtain special certificates from the
Department of Labor.
A training wage of $3.62 per hour, or 85 per cent of the applicable
minimum wage, whichever is greater, may be paid to most employees
under 20 years for up to 90 days under certain conditions.
Individuals may be employed at this training wage for a second 90-day
period by a different employer if certain additional requirements are
met. No individual may be employed at the training wage, in any
number of jobs, for more than a total of 180 days. Employers may not
displace regular employees in order to hire those eligible for the
The training wage provisions expire March 31, 1993.
A tipped employee is one who regularly receives more than $30 a month
in tips. Tips received by such employees may be counted as wages up
to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. The minimum cash wage that
employers must pay (from their own pockets) to tipped employees is
$2.125 per hour. If an employee's hourly tip earnings (averaged
weekly) added to this hourly wage do not equal the minimum wage, the
employer is responsible for paying the balance.
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor administers and
enforces the FLSA and has the authority to supervise voluntary
payment of back wages but cannot order such payment if the employer
refuses to pay. Such matters fall under the jurisdiction of the
courts and individuals have private right under Section 16(b) of the
FLSA to file suit to recover back wages as well as court costs and
reasonable attorney fees.
For more information...
Contact the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed in
most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of
Labor, Employment Standards Administration.
This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department
of Labor Programs. It is intended as a general description only and
does not carry the force of legal opinion.
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