Reference Number: 
CTAS-128

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards, establishes recordkeeping requirements and regulates child labor.[1] The FLSA has applied to state and local governments since 1985 when the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority,[2] which reversed its 1976 decision in National League of Cities v. Usery and held that the FLSA applies to employees of state and local governments.

As a result of Garcia, Congress enacted amendments to the FLSA which authorized the use of compensatory time in lieu of cash compensation for overtime work by state and local government employees. In addition, the amendments provided an exemption from the overtime and minimum wage requirements of the FLSA for volunteers under specified circumstances; authorized special detail work by public safety employees without overtime costs for the county; and defined limited circumstances under which government employees can do part-time work for the county in their off-duty hours without the county incurring overtime costs for the additional hours.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) promulgates rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the FLSA, which can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). The regulations contain detailed explanations of how the various provisions of the FLSA are applied, and often include examples to aid in interpreting the law. Copies of these regulations, as well as other useful publications, are available from the local DOL offices located across the state.

All local governments should periodically undertake a review of their employment practices to ensure that they are in conformity with the requirements of the FLSA and any new rules enacted by any recent amendments. Local governments should conduct job studies (reviewing job duties), write accurate job descriptions, assign properly descriptive job titles and perform periodic audits or reviews to consider exemptions applicable and continued compliance with the FLSA’s provisions.

Almost as important as what the FLSA does, is what it does not do. The FLSA does not require any of the following:

  1. Vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay;
  2. Employees be paid on a salary basis or hourly wage basis for non-overtime work;
  3. Meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations;
  4. Premium pay for weekend or holiday work;
  5. Payroll on a weekly basis;
  6. Pay raises or fringe benefits;
  7. Discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages; or
  8. Any limit on the number of hours of work for persons 16 years of age and over.

These and similar matters are left to the discretion of the employer. Which official within the county is legally authorized to make personnel decisions is an important consideration. Both general law and private acts should be consulted to determine the applicable law in a particular county and office.


[1] The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is more commonly associated with discrimination laws and not with wage and hour laws, and it is administered by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

[2] 105 U. S. 2041 (1985).