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November 15, 2010
History of the Fair Labor Standards Act

In a BLR webinar titled "Advanced Exemption Audits: Evaluate Your Overtime Classifications Now To Avoid Costly Trouble Later," Mary Topliff, Esq., outlined the history of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted in 1934. During that time, there was a lot of abuse by factories, including both worker abuse and child labor. This law was enacted to protect employees and it started the idea of paying people by the hour instead of by the day.

It is important to keep in mind that, due to its history, the law favors payment by the hour. The FLSA presumes that an employee is covered by the law, and the burden rests with the employer to prove if an employee is exempt from being paid overtime. Additionally, the employee cannot simply agree to be exempt from overtime pay; their rights cannot be waived under this law.

Times may be different now, but the "underground" economy still exists, particularly in large cities, often including immigrant workers. These employees often get dismal conditions and pay, which should always be kept in mind when contemplating why these laws are still necessary today.

The overtime exemption laws are found in both federal and some state laws. Be sure to check to see if your state has adopted the latest FLSA regulations. Also see what exemptions your state may use. Your state may have unique exemptions.

Mary Topliff, Esq. founded the Law Offices of Mary L. Topliff in San Francisco in 1997, after practicing civil and employment litigation for nine years. ( The firm specializes in employment law counseling, training, and compliance, focusing on practical solutions to avoid costly legal issues. She has advised many organizations regarding overtime exemption analyses and strategies for minimizing the risk. Topliff is a published author and frequent speaker on legal issues impacting the workplace.

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