331 U.S. 722 (1947), 562, Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb

Docket Nº:No. 562
Citation:331 U.S. 722, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772
Party Name:Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb
Case Date:June 16, 1947
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 722

331 U.S. 722 (1947)

67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772

Rutherford Food Corp.



No. 562

United States Supreme Court

June 16, 1947

Argued April 9, 10, 1947




1. Boners of meat worked in a slaughterhouse exclusively for the operator thereof and their work was but one step in a continuous process the other steps of which were performed by persons who were admittedly employees of the operator.

Held: in the circumstances of this case, the boners were employees of the operator of the slaughterhouse within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, even though they worked under a contract, owned their own tools, and were paid collectively a certain amount per hundredweight of boned beef, which pay they divided among themselves. Pp. 724-726, 729-730.

2. Decisions defining the coverage of the employer-employee relationship under the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act are persuasive in the consideration of a similar coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. See Labor Board v. Hearst Publications, 322 U.S. 111; United States v. Silk, ante p. 704. P. 723.

3. Where the work done, in its essence, follows the usual path of an employee, putting an "independent contractor" label on the worker does not deprive him of the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act. P. 729.

4. Determination of the employer-employee relationship within the contemplation of the Fair Labor Standards Act does not depend on isolated factors, but rather upon the circumstances of the whole activity. P. 730.

156 F.2d 513, conclusion affirmed and direction of judgment modified.

The District Court refused to enjoin alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 156 F.2d 513. This Court granted

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certiorari. 329 U.S. 704. Conclusion affirmed and direction of judgment modified, p. 731.

REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor brought this action o enjoin t he Rutherford Food Corporation and the Kaiser Packing Company from further violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.1 The Administrator alleged that the defendants had repeatedly failed to keep proper records and to pay certain of its employees overtime as required by § 7 of the Act.2 The District Court refused to grant the injunction. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed on appeal, and directed the entry of the judgment substantially as prayed for. Walling v. Rutherford Food Corp., 156 F.2d 513. We brought the case here because of the importance of the issues presented by the petition for certiorari to the administration of the Act.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, enacted June 25, 1938, is a part of the social legislation of the 1930's of the same general character as the National Labor Relations Act of July 5, 1935, 49 Stat. 449, and the Social Security Act of August 14, 1935, 49 Stat. 620. Decisions that define the coverage of the [67 S.Ct. 1474] employer-Employee relationship under the Labor and Social Security acts are persuasive in the consideration of a similar coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. See Labor Board v. Hearst Publications,

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322 U.S. 111; United States v. Silk, ante, p. 704.

The petitioners are corporations of Missouri authorized to do business in Kansas. The slaughterhouse of the Kaiser Packing Company, the place of the alleged violations with which we are concerned, and the principal place of business of that company, is in Kansas City, Kansas, from which it ships meat in interstate commerce. Since 1942, most of its product has been boned beef. The petitioner, Rutherford Food Corporation, has its principal place of business and its plant for processing meat products in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1943, Rutherford bought 51% of the stock of Kaiser in order to assure itself of a constant supply of boned beef for contracts it had with the U.S. Army. Kaiser had been operating and continued to operate at a loss, and Rutherford advanced more than $50,000 to Kaiser between March, when Rutherford bought the Kaiser stock, and July, 1943. To assure itself of a continued supply of meat, Rutherford leased Kaiser's facilities and took over operation of the slaughterhouse in July. In May, 1944, the lease was terminated, and Rutherford's stock interest in Kaiser sold, so that Kaiser might qualify for subsidies granted by the Defense Supplies Corporation to unaffiliated nonprocessing slaughterers under its Regulation No. 3.3

Prior to 1942, Kaiser had one hourly paid employee who acted as a combined butcher, beef boner and order filler. During 1942, in order to be able to furnish beef boned to Army specifications to the Army under contract, Kaiser entered into a written contract with one Reed, an experienced boner, which provided that Reed should assemble a group of skilled boners to do the boning at the slaughterhouse. The terms of the contract were that Reed should be paid for the work of boning an amount per hundredweight

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of boned beef, that he would have complete control over the other boners, who would be his employees, that Kaiser would furnish a room in its plant for the work, known as the boning vestibule, into which the carcasses of cattle slaughtered by Kaiser would be moved on overhead rails by Kaiser employees, that Kaiser would also furnish barrels for the boned meat which would be washed and moved out of the vestibule by Kaiser's employees. Reed abandoned the work in February, 1943, and the work was taken over under an oral contract by one of the boners who had worked with him. This boner, Schindel, also abandoned the work in May, 1944, and an oral contract was then made by the company with Hooper and Deere, who had worked with Schindel. After a few months, Deere left, at which time Hooper entered into a written contract substantially like the one between Kaiser and Reed, save that it provided for rent to be paid by Hooper for the boning room, although, as a matter of fact, no rent was ever paid. The District Court found that, since the boning work had started in 1942, the money paid by Kaiser had been shared equally among all the boners, except for a short time after Hooper took over the work when he paid some of the boners by the hour. It was stipulated further that the boners owned their own tools, although these consisted merely of a hook to hold the meat, a knife to cut it, a sharpener for the knife, and a leather belt (apron). Although the CIO union which was the representative of the workers of the company insisted that the boners be members, and although the written contracts provided that they should join, it was stipulated that the union dues of the boners were not checked off, and that the boners were not subject to the authority of the union steward at the plant.

The slaughterhouse operations, of which the boning is a part, are carried on in a series of interdependent steps.

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The cattle are slaughtered, skinned, and dressed in the [67 S.Ct. 1475] killing room, and the carcasses are moved thence on overhead rails into an overnight cooler by employees of Kaiser. The next day, they are moved into another cooler, and then into the boning vestibule, on the same overhead rail. They move around the boning room on the rail, each boner cutting off a section for boning. The boneless meat is put into barrels, or passed to a trimmer, an employee of Kaiser, who trims waste matter from the...

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