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October 11, 2011

FLSA in the Modern Workplace: is it Still Relevant?

Filed under: Compensation,FLSA7:59 am

“Good intentions can lead to unintended consequences,” said Tim Walberg (R-MI) in his opening remarks to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections this summer. The subject: a hearing to discuss the pros and cons of changing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to Walberg, lawsuits involving the classification of employees have skyrocketed from 1,500 in the mid-1990s to over 7,000 in 2010.

The FLSA was enacted toward the end of the Great Depression. While almost anyone would agree it was necessary legislation at the time, many would also argue the FLSA reflects the industrialized workplace of that era – not the modern workplace of the 21st Century. Technological advances, such as laptops and smartphones, have transformed the image of the workplace into any area a worker can get wireless service.

SHRM member Nobumichi Hara remarked that the FLSA “hinders employers’ ability to provide the flexibility that millions of nonexempt employees want.” Hara is senior vice president of human capital for Phoenix-based Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona. Other panel members included: Randy MacDonald, SVP of Human Resources with IBM; Richard Alfred, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw, LLP; Judy Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator with the National Employment Law Project. MacDonald pointed out that the Department of Labor has been sued for violations of the FLSA “in their own house.”

SHRM has also partnered with the Families and Work Institute and has been educating HR professionals about effective, flexible workplace practices.

References for further information:

SHRM’s Principles for a 21st Century Workplace Flexibility Policy

“The Fair Labor Standards Act: Is It Meeting the Needs of the Twenty-First Century Workplace?” View an archived webcast of the hearings.

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