FLSA: Fair Labor Standards Act: What Are Employers Required to Do Under Federal Law?

There appears to be much confusion about what break workers in the United States are entitled to for various breaks during working hours.  There is a Federal law, the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)  and some separate state laws that define breaks.  In general, the answer is, no breaks are required under law.  Most people are remembering special requirements that apple to child laborers or certain occupations (like airline pilots).  More than eighty million American workers are protected (or "covered") by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - almost anyone who is paid by the hour.  Salaried employees are generally not covered by the protections of the FLSA.. Employers whose enterprises are covered by the FLSA, or who have employees engaged in interstate commerce (the generation of income over state lines by various means) are required by the FLSA to pay employees for time worked, as defined by the law. Unlike some other laws relating to employment, the standard does not hinge upon how many employees the employer has, but instead looks at the nature of the work performed by the enterprise and the employee to determine whether interstate commerce is involved. In addition, if a business generates income of $500,000 per year, it is subject to federal labor laws.

Some of the key provisions and requirements of the FLSA are:

Federal Minimum Wage:

Employees under 20 years of age may be paid $4.25 per hour during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer.

Certain full-time students, student learners, apprentices, and workers with disabilities may be paid less than the minimum wage under special certificates issued by the Department of Labor.

Tip Credit: Employers of "tipped employees" must pay a cash wage of at least $2.13 per hour if they claim a tip credit against their minimum wage obligation. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's cash wage of at least $2.13 per hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. Certain other conditions must also be met.

Overtime Pay: At least 1 times an employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Child Labor: An employee must be at least 16 years old to work in most non-farm jobs and at least 18 to work in non-farm jobs declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Youths 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs under the following conditions:

No more than -

Also, work may not begin before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m. Different rules apply in agricultural employment.

ENFORCEMENT: The Department of Labor may recover back wages, either administratively or through court action, for the employees that have been underpaid in violation of the law. Violations may result in civil or criminal action.

Fines of up to $11,000 per violation may be assessed against employers who violate the child labor provisions of the law and up to $1,100 per violation against employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the minimum wage or overtime pay provisions. This law prohibits discriminating against or discharging workers who file a complaint or participate in any proceedings under the Act.


FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, contact the nearest Wage and Hour Division office -- listed in most telephone directories under United States Government, Labor Department. 

Contact the Wage-Hour Division to report a potential FLSA unpaid wage violation, at:

This page was updated on 30-Mar-2016