commerce clause, Tenth Amendment, federal regulation, employment law, minimum wage, maximum hours, overtime, Fair Labor Standards Act


The power of the federal government to regulate aspects of private employment (i.e., minimum wages, overtime pay, the right to unionize) has become a recognized aspect of the relationship between employers and employees. The Supreme Court has upheld such federal regulation as a valid exercise of congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. In the past decade, Congress has extended the coverage of labor statutes to workers in the public sector. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted to foster the "maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being of workers..." To achieve this end, FLSA establishes minimum wages and maximum hours after which the employer must pay his employees at a premium rate. In 1974 Congress extended the statute's minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to employees of state and local governments. In National League of Cities v. Usery, the Supreme Court struck down the FLSA amendment as an infringement on the sovereign power retained by the states and their subdivisions under the Tenth Amendment. The Court did not address the validity of other statutes imposing federal policy on state employment practices. This Note will explore the effect of National League of Cities on such statutes, particularly those which, unlike FLSA, are based on constitutional provisions other than the commerce power.



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