Fair Labor Standards Act

The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor is responsible for overseeing the rules and regulations pertaining to FLSA, including those related to child labor. The act is enforced by means of inspections of workplaces. Inspections can be conducted in response to complaints: Anyone can file a complaint on his or her own behalf or on behalf of someone else, alleging the violation of FLSA requirements. In addition, the Wage and Hour Division has a program of targeted inspections and a program of directed inspections. Targeted inspections focus on specific industries (for example, retail establishments) or types of employment sites (for example, shopping malls) for a specified length of time. These inspections usually cover all aspects of the FLSA, but in some cases are targeted to a specific section of the law, such as child labor regulations. Directed inspections focus more narrowly on segments of an industry or parts of the act. The number of inspectors available for enforcement varies, depending on the department's annual budget, but it is relatively small. As of the end of fiscal 1997 (September 30), the Wage and Hour Division had 942 inspectors, a 20 percent increase over the number of inspectors at the end of fiscal 1996.8 These inspectors are responsible for overseeing all the businesses covered by the FLSA.

In fiscal 1996, the Department of Labor found 7,873 young people working in 1,820 establishments in violation of child labor laws and regulations; in fiscal 1997, there were 5,270 young people working in 1,141 establishments in violation of child labor laws and regulations. 9 The number of violations varies a great deal by year, depending on the industries that are targeted for investigation. For example, in the late 1980s, the department targeted retail and fastfood establishments, industries that employ large numbers of adoles-


Information on the inspection process at the Wage and Hour Division is based on discussions with Art Kerschner, Jr., and William Fern of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor.


Personal communication from Art Kerschner, Jr., Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor.

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