The Wage and Hour Division was created with the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The Division is responsible for the administration and enforcement of a wide range of laws which collectively cover virtually all private and State and local government employment. The Division is comprised of a nationwide staff of investigators, supervisors, and technical and clerical employees responsible for enforcing FLSA, Government Contracts labor standards statutes, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 also provided certain additional enforcement responsibilities to be undertaken by the Wage and Hour Division staff.

Wage and Hour Division Historical Summary

1931 Davis-Bacon Act becomes law: signed 3/3/31; effective 3/3/31 (no delay)

1936 Walsh Healey Public Contracts Act becomes law: signed 6/30/36; effective 6/30/36 (no delay)

1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) becomes law: signed 6/25/38; effective 10/24/38

1938 Wage and Hour Division created

1941 U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of FLSA

1947 Portal-to-Portal Act:(first substantial modification of WH laws) signed 5/14/47; effective 5/14/47

  1. compensable work time
  2. "good faith defense"
  3. statute of limitations established

1949 FLSA Amendments

  1. changes in OT
  2. definition of "regular rate"
  3. re-definition of "produced"
  4. raised MW from 40 cents to 75 cents per hour
  5. extended child labor coverage
  6. addition of new exemptions

1955 FLSA Amendments

  1. MW increased from 75 cents to $1.00 per hour

1961 FLSA Amendments

  1. enterprise coverage
  2. increase in MW from $1.00 to $1.25 per hour in stages
  3. definition of "Wage"
  4. WH given authority in Sec 17 to sue for BW for employees

1962 Contract Work Hours Standards Act becomes law: signed 8/13/62; effective 8/13/62 (no delay)

1963 Equal Pay Act (EP) becomes law: signed 6/10/63; effective 6/10/64

1965 McNamara - O'Hara Service Contract Act becomes law: signed 10/22/65; effective 1/22/66

1966 FLSA Amendments

  1. expansion of coverage
  2. MW for some farm workers
  3. increase in MW to $1.60 in stages
  4. State and local government employees covered for the first time

1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) becomes law: signed 12/15/67; effective 6/15/68

1970 The Federal garnishment law - Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act becomes law: signed 5/29/68; effective 7/1/70

1972 Amendments to Higher Education Act of 1965

  1. FLSA coverage extended to preschools
  2. EP protection extended to 13(a)(1) exempt employees

1973 FLCRA enforcement and administration transferred to WH

1974 FLSA Amendments

  1. expansion of coverage to include other State and local government employees
  2. domestic workers covered
  3. increase in MW to $2.30 in stages

1976 National League of Cities (NLOC) vs Usery: MW and OT provisions of FLSA not applicable to "traditional activities" of State and local governments

1977 FLSA Amendments

  1. increase in MW in yearly increments thru 1981 to $3.35
  2. changes involving tipped employees and tip credit
  3. ADV required for enterprise coverage of retail and service enterprises increased
  4. 13(c) amended to permit waiver applications for 10 and 11 year-old agricultural hand harvesters of short season crops
  5. 16(b) expanded to include Employee right to sue for 15 (a)(3) actions
  6. 13(b)(8) partial OT exemption for certain hotel, motel and restaurant employees repealed in stages

1979 Enforcement of EP and ADEA transferred to EEOC on July 1, 1979, as part of presidential reorganization

1983 MSPA becomes law: signed 1/14/83; effective 4/14/83

1985 Garcia vs San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (SAMTA); Overturned National League of Cities (NLOC)

1985-FLSA Amendments: signed November 13, 1985; effective April 15, 1986

  1. State and local government employees
  2. compensatory time off

1986-Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1986: signed November 8, 1985; effective January 1, 1986

  1. repealed the eight-hour daily overtime requirements on all Federal contracts

1986 FLSA Amendments

  1. FLSA section 14
  2. eliminated different programs under section 14; one certificate for all programs under section 14
  3. appeals procedure - clients may ask for review of wage rates by ALJ subject to review by DOL

1987 Immigration Reform and Control Act: signed 11/6/86; effective 11/7/86

  1. requires employers to verify newly hired worker's employment eligibility
  2. employers must maintain I-9 eligibility form
  3. H-2A temporary alien workers
  4. reportable alien agricultural workers

1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act; signed 6/27/88; effective 12/27/88

  1. prohibits administration of lie detector test in private sector
  2. Federal, State and local government employers are excluded
  3. exemptions

1989 FLSA Amendments

  1. increase in MW to $4.25 in stages
  2. increase in ADV for enterprise coverage
  3. no distinction between retail and non-retail
  4. construction and laundry/dry cleaning no longer named enterprises
  5. changes in tip credit
  6. training wage - 85% of MW
  7. remedial education
  8. CMPs for willful or repeated MW or OT violations

1993 Family And Medical Leave Act; signed 2/5/93; effective 8/5/93

  1. eligible employees entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons
  2. advance notice and medical certification
  3. job benefits maintenance and job restoration protection
  4. employer/employee obligations
  5. "key" employees

Dissolution of the Employment Standards Administration

On November, 8, 2009, the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) was abolished and the four major program components of ESA – Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Office of Labor Management Standards, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and the Wage and Hour Division – became stand-alone programs reporting directly to the Secretary of Labor. The Office of the Assistant Secretary and the Office of Management, Administration and Planning (OMAP) were eliminated with administrative functions in OMAP transferred to the four programs or departmental administrative programs.

The purpose of the reorganization was to improve the efficiency of all four programs by eliminating a layer of review and decision-making, which allows DOL leadership to more quickly attend to policy matters in each program without having an added organization component review between the program heads and senior leadership.