Throwback Thursday: Labor law highlights and changes still to come

Business, Politics

Monday marked Labor Day, a holiday that recognizes the societal and economic contributions of America’s estimated 156 million workers.

The first Labor Day was observed in 1882 in New York City with a march, concert, picnic and speeches. But it certainly hasn’t been conflict free since that first celebration. In subsequent years, there have been strikes, riots, armed insurrections, substandard wages and dangerous – even deadly – work conditions.

In response, and thanks to the U.S. labor movement, a slew of labor laws meant to protect the rights and safety of workers have been enacted.

Highlights in labor legislation 

The industrialization of America and the rise of labor unions were a catalyst for some of this country’s most meaningful labor legislation, including: 

Adamson Act: Passed in 1916, this law set the eight-hour workday. 

Fair Labor Standards Act: Signed into law in 1938 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the law requires both private and public employers to pay workers a set federal minimum wage and overtime pay. It also restricts the number of hours children under 16 can work and sets the standard workweek at 40 hours. 

Occupational Safety and Health Act: Signed in 1970, the act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Enforced through workplace investigations and inspections, employers are obligated to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for their employees. 

Federal Employees Compensation Act: This legislation requires federal employers to adequately compensate workers injured on the job by providing wage loss compensation, granting monetary awards for permanent injuries and covering medical costs. 

Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA allows eligible employees who work in businesses with 50 or more workers to take up to 12 weeks of time off for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a sick spouse, child or parent, or because of personal illness. While the leave is unpaid, the employer must hold open the job or, upon the employee’s return, offer a comparable job. 

Labor laws in the works 

Labor legislation is ever-evolving. Here are some interesting cases in the news:

Expanding the Family Medical Leave Act: Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has announced a proposed rule extending the benefits of the act to those in legal same-sex marriages.

Increasing minimum wage: While the Senate recently voted against legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, cities and states are picking up the battle cry. California recently enacted legislation that will raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by January 2016. Earlier this year the Seattle City Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the coming years.