Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is the FLSA anachronistic?

Earlier this week I wrote about whether employees are entitled to overtime pay for reading emails. Michael Moore (the author of the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blog, not the director of Roger & Me) posted a comment to my post that is so wonderful that I'm reprinting it to make sure that all of my readers see it:

ballpointpenThe only area immune from technology is the FLSA which is stuck in the year 1938, when it was enacted. Incidentally, this is the same year that the ball point pen was invented by the Argentine-Hungarian journalist László Bíró. I wonder if the DOL sat around in 1938 wondering if employees who wrote themselves work-related “To Do” list at home might actually be engaged in compensable work time activities entitling them to overtime?... or if the invention of the ball point pen (as opposed to the clunky fountain pen) would have so dramatically reduced these efforts that it would make the time de minimis?

Michael is dead on. As our employment laws move forward, the FLSA remains stuck in the past. The FLSA was enacted in 1938 to the curb worker exploitation, boost job creation, and bring the country out of the Great Depression. Last year, I asked if the 40-hour work week is still relevant in the modern world.  Michael's comment really drives home the point that a law enacted to address workplace conditions that existed during the Depression may need to be seriously reworked to address the realities of the modern workplace.