328 U.S. 680 (1946), 342, Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co.

Docket Nº:No. 342
Citation:328 U.S. 680, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515
Party Name:Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co.
Case Date:June 10, 1946
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 680

328 U.S. 680 (1946)

66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515

Anderson

v.

Mt. Clemons Pottery Co.

No. 342

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 1946

Argued January 29, 1946

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent produces pottery for interstate commerce. Its employees enter the plant and punch time clocks during a period of 14 minutes before the regular starting time for productive work. They walk from the time clocks to their places of work within the plant, and make various preparations for the start of productive work. After the regular quitting time, they were allowed a 14-minute period to punch out and leave the plant. They were compensated for their time from the next even quarter hour after punching in until the next even quarter hour prior to punching out. Similar provision was made for punching out and in before and after the lunch hour. Thus, an employee might be credited with as much as 56 minutes per day less than the time recorded by the time clocks. Employees brought suit under § 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to recover amounts allegedly owing to them under the overtime provisions of § 7(a) of the Act.

Held:

1. An employee who brings suit under § 16(b) for unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation, together with liquidated damages, has the burden of proving that he performed work for which he was not properly compensated. P. 686.

2. This burden is met by proof that he has in fact performed work for which he was not properly compensated, and by sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference. P. 687.

3. The burden then shifts to the employer to come forward with evidence of the precise amount of work performed, or with evidence to negative the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence. P. 687.

4. If the employer fails to produce such evidence, the court may then award damages to the employee, even though the result be only approximate Pp. 688, 693.

5. An employer who has not kept the records required by § 11(c) cannot be heard to complain that damages assessed against him lack the precision of measurement that would be possible had he kept such records. P. 688.

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6. The findings of a special master on the purely factual issue of the amount of actual productive work performed, being supported by substantial evidence and not clearly erroneous, should have been accepted by the District Court, and it erred in rejecting these findings and creating a formula of compensation based on a contrary view. Rule 53(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. P. 689.

7. Since there was no requirement that an employee check in or be on the premises at any particular time during the 14-minute interval, the time clock records could not form the sole basis of determining the statutory workweek. Pp. 689-690.

8. Time necessarily spent by the employees in walking to work on the employer's premises is working time within the scope of § 7(a), and must be compensated accordingly, regardless of contrary custom or contract. However, application of the de minimis rule is not precluded where the minimum walking time is such as to be negligible. Pp. 691-692.

9. Time necessarily spent by employees in preliminary activities after arriving at their places of work -- such as putting on aprons and overalls, removing shirts, taping or greasing arms, putting on finger cots, preparing the equipment for productive work, turning on switches for lights and machinery, opening windows, and assembling and sharpening tools -- must be included within the workweek, and compensated accordingly. However, application of the de minimis rule to insubstantial and insignificant periods of time spent in such activities is not precluded. Pp. 692-693.

10. Unless the employer can provide accurate estimates as to the amount of time spent in such activities in excess of the productive working time, it is the duty of the trier of facts to draw whatever reasonable inferences can be drawn from the employees' evidence. P. 693.

11. As to waiting time before and after the shift periods, the findings of the special master, that the employees had not proved that they were in fact forced to wait or that they were not free to spend such time on their own behalf, were supported by substantial evidence, and must be sustained. P. 694.

149 F.2d 461, reversed.

Employees brought suit in the District Court against their employer to recover sums claimed to be due them under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The District Court

Page 682

gave judgment in favor of the employees. 60 F.Supp. 146. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, and ordered the suit dismissed. 149 F.2d 461. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 706. Reversed and remanded, p. 694.

MURPHY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Several important issues are raised by this case concerning the proper determination of working time for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.

The Mt. Clemens Pottery Company, the respondent, employs approximately 1,200 persons at its pottery plant at Mt. Clemens, Michigan; about 95% of them are compensated upon a piece work basis. The plant covers more than eight acres of ground, and is about a quarter of a mile in length. The employees' entrance is at the northeast corner. Immediately adjacent to that entrance are cloak and rest rooms where employees may change to their working clothes and place their street clothes in lockers. Different shifts begin at different times during the day, with whistles frequently indicating the starting time for productive work. The whistles which blow at 6:55 and 7:00 a.m., however, are the most commonly used. An

Page 683

interval of 14 minutes prior to the scheduled starting time for each shift permits the employees to punch time clocks, walk to their respective places of work, and prepare for the start of productive work. Approximately 200 employees use each time clock during each 14-minute period, and an average of 25 employees can punch the clock per minute. Thus, a minimum of 8 minutes is necessary for the employees to get by the time clock. The employees then walk to their working places along clean, painted floors of the brightly illuminated and well ventilated building. They are free to take whatever course through the plant they desire, and may stop off at any portion of the journey to converse with other employees and to do whatever else they may desire. The minimum distances between time clocks and working places, however, vary from 130 feet to 890 feet, the estimated walking time ranging from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Some of the estimates as to walking time, however, go as high as 6 to 8 minutes. Upon arriving at their places of work, the employees perform various preliminary duties, such as putting on aprons and overalls, removing shirts, taping or greasing their arms, putting on finger cots, preparing the equipment for productive work, turning on switches for lights and machinery, opening windows, and assembling and sharpening tools. Such activities, it is claimed, consume 3 or 4 minutes, at the most. The employees are also allowed a 14-minute period at the completion of the established working periods to leave the plant and punch out at the time clocks.

Working time is calculated by respondent on the basis of the time cards punched by the clocks. Compensable working time extends from the succeeding even quarter hour after employees punch in to the quarter hour immediately preceding the time when they punch out. Thus, an employee who punches in at 6:46 a.m., [66 S.Ct. 1191] punches out at 12:14 p.m., punches in again at 12:46 p.m., and, finally,

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punches out at 4:14 p.m. is credited with having worked the 8 hours between 7 a.m. and 12 noon and between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. -- a total of 56 minutes less than the time recorded by the time clocks.

Seven employees and their local union, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, brought this suit under § 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging that the foregoing method of computation did not accurately reflect all the time actually worked, and that they were thereby deprived of the proper overtime compensation guaranteed them by § 7(a) of the Act. They claimed, inter alia, that all employees worked approximately 56 minutes more per day than credited by respondent, and that, in any event, all the time between the hours punched on the time cards constituted compensable working time.

The District Court referred the case to a special master. After hearing testimony and making findings, the master recommended that the case be dismissed, since the complaining employees "have not established by a fair preponderance of evidence" a violation of the Act by respondent. He found that the employees were not required to, and did not, work approximately 56 minutes more per day than credited to them. He further found that the employees

have not sustained their burden to prove that all the time between the punched entries on the clock was spent in working, and that, conversely, none of the time in advance of the starting time spent by employees arriving early was their own time.

Production work, he concluded,

did not regularly commence until the established starting time, and, if in some instances it was commenced shortly prior thereto, it was counterbalanced by occasions when it was started after the hour and by admitted occasions when it was stopped several minutes before quitting time.

Page 685

As to the time between the punching of the clocks and the start of the productive work, the master made the following determinations:

(1) The time spent in walking from the time clocks to the places of work was not compensable working time in view of the established...

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