323 U.S. 360 (1945), 106, United States v. Rosenwasser

Docket Nº:No. 106
Citation:323 U.S. 360, 65 S.Ct. 295, 89 L.Ed. 301
Party Name:United States v. Rosenwasser
Case Date:January 02, 1945
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 360

323 U.S. 360 (1945)

65 S.Ct. 295, 89 L.Ed. 301

United States



No. 106

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 2, 1945

Argued December 12, 1944




The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is applicable to employees compensated on a piece rate basis, and employers of such employees are subject to the criminal provisions of the Act. P. 361.


Appeal under the Criminal Appeals Act from a judgment sustaining a demurrer as to certain counts of an information charging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Page 361

MURPHY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a direct appeal from a judgment of the District Court for the Southern District of California. That court sustained appellee's demurrer to an information charging violations of the minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 [65 S.Ct. 296] Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. This was done on the ground that the Act is inapplicable where employees are compensated at piece rates, as is the case in appellee's garment business. We are thus met with the clear issue of whether the Act covers piece rate employees so as to subject their employers to its criminal provisions.

Neither the policy of the Act nor the legislative history gives any real basis for excluding piece workers from the benefits of the statute. This legislation was designed to raise substandard wages and to give additional compensation for overtime work as to those employees within its ambit, thereby helping to protect this nation "from the evils and dangers resulting from wages too low to buy the bare necessities of life and from long hours of work injurious to health." Sen.Rep. No. 884 (75th Cong., 1st Sess.) p. 4; United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100. No reason is apparent why piece workers who are underpaid1 or who work long hours do not fall within the spirit or intent of this statute, absent an explicit exception as to them. Piece rate and incentive systems were widely prevalent in the United States at the time of the passage of

Page 362

this Act,2 and we cannot assume that Congress meant to discriminate against the many workers compensated under such systems. Certainly the evils which the Act sought to eliminate permit of no distinction or discrimination based upon the method of employee compensation, and none is evident from the legislative history.

The plain words of the statute give an even more unmistakable answer to the problem. Section 6(a) of the Act provides that "every employer" shall pay to "each of his employees who is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce" not less than specified minimum "rates," which at present are "not less than 30 cents an hour." Section 7(a) provides that "no employer" shall employ "any of his employees" for longer than specified hours in any week without paying overtime compensation "at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." The term "employee" is defined in Section 3(e) to include "any individual employed by an employer," with certain exceptions not here pertinent being specified in Section 13, and the term "employ" is defined in Section 3(g) to include "to suffer or permit to work."

A broader or more comprehensive coverage of employees within the stated categories would be difficult to frame.

Page 363

The use of the words "each" and "any" to modify "employee,"...

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