For the decades leading up to 1938, American employers exploited workers by forcing them to accept substandard wages, work in unsafe conditions, and put in 16-hour days for eight hours of pay. Workers had no legal recourse to reverse the huge advantage employers had over them until the organized labor movement started to grow at the onset of The Great Depression. After applying pressure in Washington, D.C., influential labor unions convinced a majority of members in Congress to pass the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The FLSA established new guidelines for employment, including an overtime policy that requires employers to compensate workers more than what they receive for regular pay if they put in more than 40 hours per week. Despite the sweeping changes that provided workers with several legal protections, the FLSA failed to address one question that many workers still have today.