Paul DeCamp, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC office, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “4 Major Presidential Wage and Hour Policies,” by Max Kutner. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

U.S. presidents have signed landmark wage and hour legislation into law, raised the federal minimum wage and halted wage increases in wartime, playing a crucial role in the payment of workers, attorneys and observers said.

Throughout American history, some presidents have taken hands-on approaches to regulating workers' wages. For example, as part of the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forward and signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. …

In honor of Presidents Day, Law360 looks at some of the biggest wage and hour policies by U.S. presidents.

Establishing a Federal Minimum Wage

Today's federal minimum wage and overtime requirements come from the FLSA, which Roosevelt, a Democrat, signed into law in 1938. …

"It's ingrained in the fabric of society at this point that we have these concepts of minimum wage and overtime," said Paul DeCamp of management-side firm Epstein Becker Green, who was a DOL Wage and Hour Division administrator under President George W. Bush. "It's become part of our understanding of what it means to be a part of the workforce."

Because states have implemented their own wage and hour requirements that sometimes exceed those under the FLSA, "you can argue that the FLSA has become less relevant over the years," DeCamp said. "But nevertheless, the FLSA continues to provide important protections to more than 100 million workers in our economy." …

Freezing and Unfreezing Pay

While presidents have set new wage floors, some have frozen wages in place.

During World War II, Roosevelt signed into law the Stabilization Act of 1942, which gave the president authority to freeze workers' wages and salaries. The following year, Roosevelt issued an executive order directing the public to "hold the line" on workers' wages and salaries except under certain conditions.

Truman terminated those wage and salary controls in a 1946 executive order. A few years later, as the Korean War began, Truman got the authority to control wages under the Defense Production Act of 1950.

In 1953, Eisenhower signed an executive order that suspended controls from the Defense Production Act.

Congress must reauthorize the Defense Production Act, or most of its authorities will expire. The authority to freeze wages remained when Congress renewed the law as the Vietnam War escalated. …

As the Vietnam War continued, Nixon signed into law the Democrat-led Economic Stabilization Act of 1970, which amended the Defense Production Act to again give the president authority to control wages. The following year, Nixon signed an executive order freezing wages in the construction industry and then another one freezing them for all workers.

Though no presidents have frozen wages since then, President Gerald Ford, a Republican, established the Council on Wage and Price Stability, which eventually became part of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews executive branch regulations. …

The most recently amended version of the Defense Production Act says it does not give authority for wage or price controls without prior authorization by Congress.

Even if the president got such authority, wage freezes are unlikely to be popular today, said DeCamp of Epstein Becker.

"If the president today were to declare that he was taking control over all wage levels and price levels in the economy, we could well see another Revolution," DeCamp said.

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