The federal Fair Labor Standards Act turns 75 today! It may be old, but it's not obsolete. This is the law that requires people to be paid minimum wage. It sets the rules for overtime. It is the most basic employment law -- the one that makes sure that people are paid for their work.
The U.S. Labor Department is using the occasion to push for the passage of the minimum wage, as President Obama suggested in February, proposing that it be increased from $7.25 an hour to $9, with an inflation index thereafter. The department says that 340,000 New Jersey workers and 558,000 Pennsylvania workers would get a raise.
Among them would be Shedeya Ivy, 22, of Philadelphia. She earns $7.25 an hour at McDonald's. When acting secretary Seth Harris visited Philadelphia several months ago, Ivy met him and told him that an increase in the minimum wage would mean an increase in food in her home, which she shares with her grandmother and aunt. She will be traveling today to Washington to attend a minimum wage roundtable that will also be attended by Harris and vice president Joseph Biden.
In New Jersey, citizens will be able to vote on whether to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, with increases tied to the consumer price index. A recent poll indicated that three in four New Jersey residents favor the increase.
When the Fair Labor Standards Act was established on June 25, 1938, the minimum wage was 25 cents an hour and the unemployment rate was 19 percent.
My readers may notice that I write a lot of wage and hour stories. To me, they are important, because, fundamentally, people deserve to be paid for their work, even though the exact situations in each workplace may vary. And, of course, just because someone files a wage and hour lawsuit, doesn't mean the complaint is valid.
Just looking over the last few months:
We have the Atlantic City police K-9 unit saying that they aren't compensated for the extra time it takes them to care for the dogs.
In Franklin Township, Gloucester County, the police need to report to work 10 minutes before their shifts and must stay 10 minutes when the shifts are over, but they don't get paid for that time, they say. Ten minutes here and there adds up to a lot of money.
A child care worker from Willingboro spends some of her hours working for one branch of a chain of day care centers. She works more hours for another branch. Together, she works more than 40 hours, but doesn't receive overtime, because, her company says, the two centers are actually two separate businesses.
Chickie's & Pete's restaurant workers say they were shorted on their tips, making them fall below the minimum wage. The U.S. Labor Department has been investigating. A manager also sued, saying she was canned for disagreeing with the pay practices.
An occupational therapist says he wasn't paid for the time he spent traveling between offices.
A mechanic sued J&J Snack Foods Corp. in Pennsauken, saying his company didn't pay him when he worked through his lunch period.
School bus drivers employed by First Student in southern New Jersey say they have to work after their shifts every day, cleaning and checking their buses, but they don't get paid.