Minimum Wage & Child Labor: Purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 History of the Fair…
  • 1:58 A Living Wage
  • 3:15 Overtime Pay
  • 4:35 Child Labor Laws
  • 6:01 Lesson Summary
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed during the Industrial Revolution and Great Depression eras of the United States. It was common for workers to experience cruel work environments during this time. This lesson explains the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act, including the provisions on minimum wages and child labor.

History of the Fair Labor Standards Act

'I wish you could do something to help us girls... We have been working in a sewing factory... and up to a few months ago we were getting our minimum pay of $11 a week.... Today the 200 of us girls have been cut down to $4 and $5 and $6 a week.'

This was the heartbreaking message inside a note passed to President Franklin Roosevelt while on a campaigning trip. The young girl tried to pass the President a note through the crowd, but a policeman pushed her back. The president told an aide to get the note and, thankfully, he read it. He later commented, 'something has to be done about the elimination of child labor and long hours in starvation wages.'

Roosevelt won re-election in 1936, and immediately worked to push through legislation to protect America's laborers. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, was passed in 1938. It's a federal statute passed to protect workers from abuses that were occurring during the Industrial Revolution and Great Depression. During this time, it was commonplace for companies to pay workers small wages and employ workers for long hours. Many people, especially new immigrants, felt the work conditions were oppressive, but felt they had to take the jobs in order to provide for their families.

Generally speaking, the purpose of the FLSA was three-fold. The law has been amended many times, but is still prominently in use today. These are the main provisions:

  1. It mandated that workers would be paid a living wage.
  2. It mandated that workers would be paid for overtime work.
  3. It created new laws regarding child labor.

Let's take a look at each of these provisions separately.

A Living Wage

The FLSA established a living wage for workers. This is a federal minimum wage required to be paid to workers per each hour worked. This means that employers are required by law to pay workers at least this specific, regulated amount per hour. This only applies to non-exempt employees, or those employees that are paid on an hourly basis.

When the FLSA was passed in 1938, the minimum wage was a mere $0.25 per hour. Let's think for a moment about the young girl that passed the note to President Roosevelt. She was originally making $11 a week, but her wages had been cut to $4 a week. With the new minimum wage standard in place, she would make $10 a week if she were working a 40-hour workweek. She probably wasn't, but we'll cover that part in a moment. The federal minimum wage amount has been amended almost 30 times since 1938. The most recent amendment was in 2009 and set the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. Note that this rate is only the minimum standard that an employer must pay, which means it's known as a starting rate. Many employees are paid on an hourly basis but are paid much more than this hourly rate.

Overtime Pay

Now, let's take a look at that 40-hour workweek. The FLSA also guaranteed workers overtime pay, which means that non-exempt employees must be paid at a rate that is time-and-a-half the regularly paid rate for any hours worked over 40 hours in one workweek. The overtime rate is calculated using the individual employee's pay rate, so the rate varies by employee. Also note that a workweek is a full 7 days.

For example, let's say that the young girl's name is Emma. Emma still works in the sewing factory, but due to major overhauls she now makes $5 an hour. Emma worked 50 hours last week. Emma will be paid $200 for the 40-hour workweek, which is her normal pay rate. But, Emma also worked 10 hours of overtime. Emma will be paid time-and-a-half for these 10 hours. Here is how time-and-a-half is calculated: Add her normal pay rate of $5 per hour to half of her normal pay rate, or $2.50 per hour. Emma will be paid $7.50 an hour for these 10 hours, or another $75 for the week. Emma's pay for the entire week will be $275.

Child Labor Laws

Remember, however, that the young girl was a child laborer. The FLSA established groundbreaking rules limiting the employment of minors in oppressive child labor. For the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children would be regulated by federal law. The law included sections that restricted the number of hours a child could work, and banned children under the age of 18 from working in extremely hazardous or dangerous jobs.

During the Industrial Revolution, factories employed children as young as six years old for little or no pay. These kids sometimes worked up to 19 hours a day to perform dangerous work, often performing perilous tasks in areas where only children's bodies or hands would fit. Under the new provisions of the FLSA, workers under the age of 18 could no longer work in these dangerous jobs at all.

As a general rule, the FLSA says that no one under the age of 14 may be employed. There are certain, limited exceptions that include employment for the child's own parents, agricultural or seasonal employment and child actors. The FLSA also limits the number of hours worked by anyone under the age of 16. The provisions prohibit these children from working more than 18 hours a week during the school year and more than 40 hours a week during school vacations.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.