Case Briefs * Determining
Anderson v. Mt.Clemens Pottery
Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946) (the “Walking Time” case)
Facts: Pottery plant workers sued employers for
overtime pay not paid due to improper method of calculating time. The employees
punched in at the time clock at one end of the plant, then walked to their
individual work stations, and finally prepared for the the
work day by doing various preliminary tasks ranging from putting on aprons and
protective hand gear to opening windows and sharpening tools. All of these tasks had to be accomplished
before the official start of the “productive work day” at 7:00am. After the lunch break, the employees repeated
all these steps, and then again at the end of the day. The plant calculated working time on the
basis of quarter hours after the employee punched in. Under this system, employees were not paid
for the approximately 14 minute period after punching in but before the whistle
blew at 7:00am or for the same time between lunch and start of productive work
in the afternoon. The time adding up
practice also fails to account for the period after the whistle blew at 4:00pm
to end the productive workday when the employees were cleaning up but had not
yet clocked out. According to the
petitioners, the method resulted in approximately 56 minutes (by the time-clock
records) of un-compensated time each day.
History: The case was dismissed for
failure to demonstrate that employer violated the FLSA. Specifically, it was determined that time
walking from the clock to work station, time spend in “preliminary duties” and
time spent waiting prior to shift start were all non-compensable for failure to
demonstrate that they could not have spent the time as they chose and failure
to demonstrate with “reasonable definiteness” the amount of time taken up in
such activities. The District Court
agreed with the special master’s finding of fact but determined that some of
the 14 minute period should be paid and set out a formula for determining the
amount of time for which the workers must be paid. On appeal the 6th Circuit Court
of Appeals decided that the burden of proof rested with the employees in these
claims. “Mere estimates” and “conjecture
[of] the extent of overtime worked” were not enough to force the employer to
pay overtime. The employees appealed the
and Disposition: Held, by the U.S. Supreme Court that the burden of proof
placed on the employee should not be so high as to pose an “impossible hurdle”
for successful claims. In the face of
inaccurate employer records, if the employee can produce “sufficient evidence
to show the amount and extent of… [improperly compensated]…work as a matter of
just and reasonable inference” the employer may be required to pay
overtime. 6th Circuit
Reasoning: The “remedial nature of the statute” and the
“great public policy which it embodies” require that employers not be allowed
to escape claims on the basis of improper record keeping.
and Key Points: When determining
hours worked time clock records are not controlling. Time clock records are useful however, if
they “show the time during which the employees were compelled to be on the
premises or at any prescribed place of work.”
The Court emphasized the control aspect of the test. Repeatedly used words/phrases such as
“require,” “compel” “necessity,” “necessarily” and “complete control.” Test for
“work”—was the action “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not)
controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily to
benefit the employer and his business?”
However, even when time for walking to and from the time clock and work
station and/or preparing for work in preliminary duties must be paid the court
“does not preclude” a judge from deciding that the time involved is too minimal
to force employers to pay overtime for it.
Amour & Co. v. Wantock,
323 U.S. 126 (1944) (“Stand-by/Waiting Time” case)
Firefighters at a Chicago soap factory sued under FLSA for overtime pay. The
factory required the firefighters to remain onsite after they clocked out as
standby in case of emergency. They
worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off.
From 8:00am to 5:00pm the firefighters worked on the clock, and were
also considered “on the clock” for any time actually spent working from 5:00
p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Otherwise, they were
not paid for the 15 hours spent on stand-by.
The employer provided a “fire house” for the firefighters complete with
cooking and sleeping facilities, as well as, some facilities for “amusements”
or entertainment. The factory paid the
firefighters a flat weekly salary regardless of amount of time actually worked.
History: District Court held that
the employer is not required to pay overtime for usual sleeping and eating
hours but all other hours on stand-by must be paid. Court of Appeals affirmed. Employers appealed. Companion case to Skidmore.
and Disposition: Held, firefighters were due overtime pay because the FLSA
“does not exclude” hours “contracted for and spent on duty” in a stand-by
capacity from hours worked. Affirmed
Employers may choose and contract for labor whose express purpose is “to do
nothing, or to do nothing but wait for something to happen.” In fact, the Court concludes “refraining from
other activity often is a factor of instant readiness to serve, and idleness
plays a part in all employments on a stand-by capacity.”
and Key Points: Time spent waiting or standing-by must be paid if it is
part of the labor specified the employee/employer agreement. Furthermore, it does not matter if other
amusement or entertainment activities are allowed or even provided during the
stand-by time frame.
Firefighters brought action against employer to recover overtime under
FLSA. Employees, like those in Amour
(decided the same day), were required to stay on the packing plant’s premises
in a fire hall when not on the clock.
Firefighters served in a stand by capacity 3 or 4 nights a week after
regular working hours. During the
stand-by time they ate, slept and entertained themselves in the fire hall.
History: The trial court determined
that the firefighters were not due overtime pay because the time spent
“pursuing…pleasurable occupations and performing…personal chores does not
constitute work.” The Court of Appeals
affirmed the lower court’s decision. The
firefighters appealed. Companion case to
and Disposition: Held, firefighters employed in a stand-by capacity are due
overtime under the FLSA for the time spent “waiting.” Lower court reversed and case remanded for
Reasoning: No arbitrary rule that “waiting time” is not
working time is permitted under the FLSA.
Each case must be decided on its particular facts.
and Key Points: The Court adopted a
case-by-case test that includes reference to the decisions and interpretations
of the Congressional Administrator. The
Administrator’s decisions are important because “the standards of public
enforcement and those for determining private rights shall be at variance only
where justified by very good reasons.”
In other words, the Court believes that laws should be administered the
same way by the courts as they are by the government unless there are “very
good reasons” to do otherwise. Although,
it should be noted that the Administrator’s guidelines are not controlling.
Reich v. Southern New England Telecommunications
Corporation, 121 F.3d 58 (Conn. 1997) (the “Lunch Hour” case)
Labor Secretary brought suit against a telecommunications provider on behalf of
its technician employees. The Secretary
sought overtime pay under the FLSA. The
company requires technicians to stay at the worksite in order to secure it
during meal breaks. The company does not
pay the technicians for this time despite the fact that the employees are
subject to disciplinary action for failing to stay on site to secure the
“valuable” equipment and assure public safety in the work area.
History: District court found that
during meal times the technicians performed duties primarily for the benefit of
the company, therefore, under the FLSA the company must account for the
employees’ time and pay them overtime if necessary. The company appealed.
and Disposition: Held, overtime pay
is due to employees who “perform duties predominantly for the benefit of
…[their]…employer” during meal periods.
Reasoning: Case law interpreting government regulations
(29 C.F.R. � 785.19) advocates a “practical” and “flexible” approach to
determining when meal periods should be counted as hours worked.
and Key Points: While the court declines to give a “literal” or “broad”
meaning to � 785.19, it endorses the “predominant benefit” test. Under the predominant benefit test, actions
that result in benefit to the employer while at the same time placing
restriction on the employee during a meal period should be counted as hours
* Case briefs are summaries of appellate court opinions issued on
particular points of law. The case briefs were prepared for illustrative
purposes only. Warning: The points of law described herein may no longer be accurate
statements of the law.