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The concept of trade unions began early in the Industrial Revolution. More and more people left farming as an occupation and began to work for employers, often in appalling conditions and for very low wages. The labor movement arose as an outgrowth of the disparity between the power of employers and the powerlessness of individual employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay, which affect most private and public employment. It requires employers to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay. For nonagricultural operations, it restricts the hours that children under age 16 can work and forbids the employment of children under age 18 in certain jobs deemed too dangerous. For agricultural operations, it prohibits the employment of children under age 16 during school hours and in certain jobs deemed too dangerous.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) gives veterans and other eligible persons special employment rights with the federal government. They are provided preference in initial hiring and protection in reductions in force. Certain persons who serve in the armed forces have a right to reemployment with the employer they were with when they entered service. This includes those called up from the reserves or National Guard.
Employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act must comply with the regulations and the safety and health standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers also have a general duty under the OSH Act to provide their employees with work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers of 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child or parent.