30 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 1994), 93-2502, McMaster v. State of Minn.

Docket Nº:93-2502.
Citation:30 F.3d 976
Party Name:2 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 294 Gregory J. McMASTER; Elizabeth Krogstad; Harold Gustafson; Michael Giest; Guy James Hathaway; John E. Liljedahl; Timothy S. Smith; Shawn Hubbard; James Scott; Ricky J. Sistad; Gerald Norris, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. STATE OF MINNESOTA; Orville Pung, Mi
Case Date:July 25, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 976

30 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 1994)

2 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 294

Gregory J. McMASTER; Elizabeth Krogstad; Harold Gustafson;

Michael Giest; Guy James Hathaway; John E. Liljedahl;

Timothy S. Smith; Shawn Hubbard; James Scott; Ricky J.

Sistad; Gerald Norris, on behalf of themselves and all

other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

STATE OF MINNESOTA; Orville Pung, Minnesota Commissioner of

Corrections; Jean Whitney, Administrative Assistant to the

Commissioner of Corrections; Donald G. Tomsche,

Correctional Administrator to Minnesota Department of

Corrections; Dennis Benson, Warden, Minnesota Correctional

Facility--Oak Park Heights; Pat Adair, Superintendent,

Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee; Robert A.

Erickson, Warden, Minnesota Correctional

Facility--Stillwater; Fred Holbeck, Superintendent,

Minnesota Correctional Facility--Faribault; G. Fred

Lafleur, Superintendent, Minnesota Correctional

Facility--Lino Lakes; Leroy Siegal, Superintendent,

Minnesota Correctional Facility--St. Cloud; Thomas F.

Grogan, Director, Minnesota Correctional Facility--Oak Park

Heights Industries; Frank W. Wood, Minnesota Deputy

Commissioner of Corrections; Guy Piras, Assistant Director,

Minnesota C.F.--OPH Industries; Jim Rariek, Supervisor,

Complex 4, MCF--OPH Industries; John Doe; Mary Roe,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-2502.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 25, 1994

Submitted May 9, 1994.

Page 977

Richard G. Nadler, St. Paul, MN (argued), for plaintiffs-appellants.

Joycelyn F. Olson, Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, MN (argued), for defendants-appellees.

Before ARNOLD, Chief Judge, LIVELY [*], Senior Circuit Judge, and FAGG, Circuit Judge.

LIVELY, Senior Circuit Judge.

The question in this case is whether inmates of state correctional facilities are entitled to be paid the federal minimum wage established under the Fair Labor Standards Act for work performed inside those facilities as part of a prison industries program. The district court held that the inmate-plaintiffs are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and have no right of action under the Ashurst-Sumners Act, and dismissed their complaint.

I.

A.

Minnesota law authorizes the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish and operate industrial and commercial activities at any state correctional facility. The activities carried out under this authorization vary in nature, ranging from the manufacture of auto parts, file folders and clothing to data entry and telemarketing services. The commissioner is also authorized to set the level of compensation to be paid to inmates, the amount "to

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depend upon the quality and character of the work performed as determined by the commissioner of corrections and the chief executive officer." Minn.Stat. Sec. 243.23(1) (1993). The authorizing statute explains the State's primary purpose in establishing these activities:

The industrial and commercial activities authorized by this section shall be for the primary purpose of providing vocational training, meaningful employment and the teaching of proper work habits to the inmates of correctional facilities under the control of the commissioner of corrections, and not as competitive business ventures.

Minn.Stat. Sec. 241.27(1) (1993).

B.

The plaintiffs are current and former inmates of various Minnesota correctional facilities who have worked, or been assigned to work, in prison industries. The plaintiffs brought this class action claiming that the State violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. Secs. 201-219, and the Ashurst-Sumners Act, 18 U.S.C. Secs. 1761-1762 by paying inmates less than the minimum wage for all "employees" prescribed by the FLSA and by shipping prisoner-made goods in interstate commerce, which is prohibited by Ashurst-Sumners. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs and class members are paid 50 to 75 cents per hour. The current minimum wage is $4.25 per hour.

In pursuing their Ashurst-Sumners claim, the plaintiffs relied on the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, contending that Ashurst-Sumners created a protected right in a property or liberty interest that the State infringed by paying them less than the minimum wage.

C.

The district court dismissed the action and filed a well-reasoned opinion dealing with the issues raised on appeal as well as others not brought here for review. See McMaster v. Minnesota, 819 F.Supp. 1429 (D.Minn.1993). Because we agree with both the holding and the reasoning of the district court, we affirm.

II.

The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of whether inmates are to be included within the coverage of the FLSA. However, most federal courts of appeals that have dealt with the issue have found that inmates working in state-operated industries are not "employees" of the state and are therefore not entitled to FLSA...

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