Engineering the Middle Classes: Class Line-Drawing in New Deal Hours Legislation

The likely readers of this Article work for a living, or are studying with the hope that they will work for a living very soon. Unlike many other workers in this society, they do not (and will not) get paid time-and-a-half for overtime. In this Article, I tell the story of how upper-level white-collar workers – people like the intended readers of this Article – came to be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s general overtime rules. My purpose in telling this story is not to participate in the debate on whether the so-called “white-collar exemptions” to the Fair Labor Standards Act make sense, although I will close by suggesting why that question is harder than it appears. Instead, my aim is to use the historical example of New Deal wage and hour legislation to shed light on how the law reflects and helps to shape the American concept of class.