323 U.S. 134 (1944), 12, Skidmore v. Swift & Co.

Docket Nº:No. 12
Citation:323 U.S. 134, 65 S.Ct. 161, 89 L.Ed. 124
Party Name:Skidmore v. Swift & Co.
Case Date:December 04, 1944
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 134

323 U.S. 134 (1944)

65 S.Ct. 161, 89 L.Ed. 124



Swift & Co.

No. 12

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 4, 1944

Argued October 13, 1944




1. No principle of law precluded a determination that waiting time was working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Armour & Co. v. Wantock, ante, p. 126. P. 136.

2. Whether time spent on the employer's premises (or in hailing distance) by fire guards subject to call was working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act is a question of fact to be resolved by appropriate findings of the trial court. P. 136.

3. Although the rulings, interpretations, and opinions of the Administrator under the Fair Labor Standards Act do not control judicial decision, they do constitute a body of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for guidance. P. 140.

136 F.2d 112 reversed.

Certiorari, 322 U.S. 723, to review the affirmance of a judgment, 53 F.Supp. 1020, denying recovery in a suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act for overtime, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees.

Page 135

JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Seven employees of the Swift and Company packing plant at Fort Worth, Texas, brought an action under the Fair Labor Standards Act to recover overtime, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees totalling approximately $77,000. The District Court rendered judgment denying this claim wholly, and the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. 136 F.2d 112.

It is not denied that the daytime employment of these persons was working time within the Act. Two were engaged in general fire hall duties and maintenance of firefighting equipment of the Swift plant. The others operated elevators or acted as relief men in fire duties. They worked from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a half-hour lunch period, five days a week. They were paid weekly salaries.

Under their oral agreement of employment, however, petitioners undertook to stay in the fire hall on the Company premises, or within hailing distance, three and a half to four nights a week. This involved no task except to answer alarms, either because of fire or because the sprinkler was set off for some other reason. No fires occurred during the period in issue, the alarms were rare, and the time required for their answer rarely exceeded an hour. For each alarm answered, the employees were

Page 136

paid, in addition to their fixed compensation, an agreed amount, fifty cents at first, and later sixty-four cents. The Company provided a brick fire hall equipped with steam heat and air-conditioned rooms. It provided sleeping quarters, a pool table, a domino table, and a radio. The men used their time in sleep or amusement as they saw fit, except that they were required to stay in or close by the fire hall and be ready to respond to alarms. It is stipulated that

they agreed to remain in the fire hall and stay in it or within hailing distance, subject to call, in event of fire or other casualty, but were not required to perform any specific tasks during these periods of time, [65 S.Ct. 163] except in answering alarms.

The trial court found the evidentiary facts as stipulated; it made no findings of fact, as such, as to whether, under the arrangement of the parties and the circumstances of this case, which, in some respects, differ from those of the Armour case (ante, p. 126), the fire hall duty or any part thereof constituted working time. It said, however, as a "conclusion of law" that

the time plaintiffs spent in the fire hall subject to call to answer fire alarms does not constitute hours worked for which overtime compensation is due them under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as interpreted by the Administrator and the Courts,

and in its opinion observed, "of course, we know pursuing such pleasurable occupations or performing such personal chores does not constitute work." The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

For reasons set forth in the Armour case, decided herewith, we hold that no principle of law found either in the statute or in Court decisions precludes waiting time from also being working time. We have not attempted to, and we cannot, lay down a legal formula to resolve cases so varied in their facts as are the many situations in which employment involves waiting time. Whether, in a concrete case, such time falls within or without the Act is a question of fact to be resolved by appropriate findings of the trial

Page 137

court. Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 572. This involves scrutiny and construction of the agreements between the particular parties, appraisal of their practical construction of the working...

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