Leod v. Threlkeld, No. 787

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREED
Citation63 S.Ct. 1248,319 U.S. 491,87 L.Ed. 1538
Decision Date07 June 1943
Docket NumberNo. 787
PartiesMcLEOD v. THRELKELD et al

319 U.S. 491
63 S.Ct. 1248
87 L.Ed. 1538
McLEOD

v.

THRELKELD et al.

No. 787.
Argued May 6, 7, 1943.
Decided June 7, 1943.

Mr. Leon C. Levy, of Houston, Tex., for petitioner.

Mr. John P. Bullington, of Houston, Tex., for respondent.

Page 492

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This certiorari brings here for examination a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 131 F.2d 880, which held that a cook, employed by respondents to prepare and serve meals to maintenance-of-way employees of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company, is not engaged in commerce under sections 6 and 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act and therefore not entitled to recover for an alleged violation of that act.1

The respondents are a partnership with a contract to furnish meals to maintenance-of-way employees of the railroad, an interstate carrier. The meals are served in a cook and dining car attached to a particular gang of workmen and running on the railroad's tracks. The car is set conveniently to the place of work of the boarders and in emergencies follows the gang to the scene of its activities. Employees pay the contractor for their meals by orders authorizing the railroad company to deduct the amount of their board from wages due and pay it over to the contractor. The petitioner worked as cook at various points in Texas along the line of the road during the period in question.

As the extent of the coverage by reason of the phrase 'engaged in commerce' is important in the administration of the Fair Labor Standards Act, we granted certiorari, 318 U.S. 754, 63 S.Ct. 857, 87 L.Ed. —-.

Page 493

In drafting legislation under the power granted by the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce and to make all laws necessary and proper to carry those regulations into effect, Congress is faced continually with the difficulty of defining accurately the precise scope of the proposed bill. In the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq., Congress did not intend that the regulation of hours and wages should extend to the furthest reaches of federal authority. The proposal to have the bill apply to employees 'engaged in commerce in any industry affecting commerce' was rejected in favor of the language, now in the act, 'each of his employees who is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.'2 Sections 6 and 7. See the discussion and reference to legislative history in Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517, 62 S.Ct. 1116, 86 L.Ed. 1638, and Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 63 S.Ct. 332, 87 L.Ed. —-. The selection of the smaller group was deliberate and purposeful.

McLeod was not engaged in the production of goods for commerce. His duties as cook and caretaker for maintenance-of-way men on a railroad lie completely outside that clause.3 Our question is whether he was 'engaged in commerce.' 4 We have held that this clause covered

Page 494

every employee in the 'channels of interstate commerce,' Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 63 S.Ct. 332, 335, 87 L.Ed. —-, as distinguished from those who merely affected that commerce. So handlers of goods for a wholesaler who moves them interstate on order or to meet the needs of specified customers are in commerce, while those employees who handle goods after acquisition by a merchant for general local disposition are not.5 Employees engaged in operating and maintaining privately owned toll roads and bridges over navigable waterways are 'engaged in commerce.' Overstreet v. North Shore Corporation, 318 U.S. 125, 63 S.Ct. 494, 87 L.Ed. —-. So are employees of contractors when the employees are engaged in repairing bridges of interstate railroads. Pedersen v. J. F. Fitzgerald Construction Co., 318 U.S. 740, 742, 63 S.Ct. 558, 87 L.Ed. —-. Journal, Supreme Court of the United States, October Term 1942, p. 177.

In the present instance, it is urged that the conception of 'in commerce' be extended beyond the employees engaged in actual work upon the transportation facilities.6 It is said that this Court decided an employee, engaged in similar work was 'in commerce,' under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 51 et seq.7 and that it is immaterial whether the employee is hired by the one engaged in the interstate business since it is the activities of the employee and not of the employer which are decisive.8

Page 495

Judicial determination of the reach of the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act 'in commerce' must deal with doubtful instances. There is no single concept of interstate commerce which can be applied to every federal statute regulating commerce. See Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, supra, 316 U.S. page 520, 62 S.Ct. page 1118, 86 L.Ed. 1638. However, the test of the Federal Employers' Liability Act that activities so closely related to interstate transportation as to be in practice and legal relation a part thereof are to be considered in that commerce, is applicable to employments 'in commerce' under the Fair Labor Standars Act.9

The effect of the over-refinement of factual situations which hampered the application of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, prior to the recent amendment,10 we hope, is not to be repeated in the administration and operation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Where the accident occurs on or in direct connection with the instrumentalities of transportation, such as tracks and engines, interstate commerce has been used interchangeably with interstate transportation.11 But where the distinction between what a common carrier by railroad does while engaging in commerce between the states, i.e., transportation, and interstate commerce in general is important, the Federal Employers' Liability Act was construed prior to the 1939 amendment as applying to transportation only.12

Page 496

The Smith13 case construed the Employers' Liability Act to apply to a cook and caretaker employed by the railroad to care for a camp car used for feeding and housing a group of the railroad's bridge carpenters. At the time of the accident the cook was engaged in these duties. In holding the cook was 'in commerce' this Court said:

'The circumstance that the risks of personal injury to which plaintiff was subjected were similar to those that attended the work of train employes generally and of the bridge workers themselves when off duty, while not without significance, is of little moment. The significant thing, in our opinion, is that he was employed by defendant to assist, and actually was assisting, the work of the bridge carpenters by keeping their bed and board close to their place of work, thus rendering it easier for defendant to maintain a proper organization of the bridge gang and forwarding their work by reducing the time lost in going to and from their meals and their lodging place. If, instead, he had brought their meals to them daily at the bridge upon which they happened to be working, it hardly would be questioned that his work in so doing was a part of theirs. What he was in fact doing was the same in kind, and did not differ materially in degree. Hence he was employed, as they were, in interstate commerce, within the meaning of the Employers' Liability Act.' 250 U.S. 101, 104, 39 S.Ct. 396, 397, 63 L.Ed. 869.

Such a ruling under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, after the Bolle, Industrial Commission and Bezue cases, supra, note 9, should not govern our conclusions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These three later cases limited the coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act to the actual operation of transportation and acts so closely related to transportation as to be themselves really a part of it. They recognized the fact that railroads

Page 497

carried commerce and were thus a part of it but that each employment that indirectly assisted the functioning of that transportation was not a part. The test under this present act, to determine whether an employee is engaged in commerce, is not whether the employee's activities affect or indirectly relate to interstate commerce but whether they are actually in or so closely related to the movement of the commerce as to be a part of it.14 Employee activities outside of this movement, so far as they are covered by wage-hour regulation, are governed by the other phrase, 'production of goods for commerce.'15

It is not important whether the employer, in this case the contractor, is engaged in interstate commerce. It is the work of the employee which is decisive. Here the employee supplies the personal needs of the maintenance-of-way men. Food is consumed apart from their work. The furnishing of board seems to us as remote from commerce, in this instance, as in the cases where employees supply themselves. In one instance the food would be as necessary for the continuance of their labor as in the other.

Page 498

We agree with the conclusion of the District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals that this employee is not engaged in commerce under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Affirmed.

Mr. Justice MURPHY, dissenting.

I think that petitioner is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In using the phrase 'engaged in commerce' Congress meant to extend the benefits of the Act to employees 'throghout the farthest reaches of the channels of interstate commerce'. Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 567, 63 S.Ct. 332, 335, 87 L.Ed. —-. We recently construed the phrase to include employees whose activities are so closely related to interstate commerce 'as to be in practice and in legal contemplation a part of it.' Overstreet v. North Shore Corp., 318 U.S. 125, 129, 130, 132, 63 S.Ct. 494, 497, 498, 87 L.Ed. —-. This practical test was derived from cases such as Pedersen v. Del., Lack. & West R.R., 229 U.S. 146, 151, 33 S.Ct. 648, 649, 57 L.Ed. 1125, and Philadelphia, B. & W.R.R. Co. v. Smith, 250 U.S. 101, 39 S.Ct. 396, 63 L.Ed. 869, construing similar...

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344 practice notes
  • Annuity v. Coastal Envtl. Grp., 18 Civ. 5773 (AMD) (ST)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 5, 2019
    ...involving the application of the LMRA and ERISA, based on the heightened evidentiary standard in FLSA cases.5 In McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 493 (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the statutory text of the FLSA and noted that "Congress did not intend that the regulation of hours......
  • R. E. Spriggs Co. v. Adolph Coors Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 28, 1974
    ...impinge on commerce in different ways and to differing extents, and the power of Congress may vary accordingly. (See McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 495, 63 S.Ct. 1248, 87 L.Ed. 1538 (1943). Regulation of business practices through the antitrust laws, for example, may justifiably reach f......
  • Adams v. Long & Turner Const. Co., No. 20736.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 3, 1947
    ...v. North Shore Corporation, 318 U.S. 125, 63 S. Ct. 494; Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517, 62 S. Ct. 1116. McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 63 S. Ct. 1248; U.S.C.A., Title 29, Secs. 206, 207, 208. (5) Respondents' Cases under "Engaged in Commerce" Distinguished. Noonan v. Fruco Constru......
  • Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., No. 09–12266.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • November 17, 2011
    ...and [662 F.3d 1316] recurrent use of interstate telephone, telegraph, mails, or travel.Id. (emphasis added) (citing McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 493–98, 63 S.Ct. 1248, 1249–52, 87 L.Ed. 1538 (1943)). For Josendis to survive summary judgment, he needed to produce admissible evidence th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
344 cases
  • Annuity v. Coastal Envtl. Grp., 18 Civ. 5773 (AMD) (ST)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 5, 2019
    ...involving the application of the LMRA and ERISA, based on the heightened evidentiary standard in FLSA cases.5 In McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 493 (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the statutory text of the FLSA and noted that "Congress did not intend that the regulation of hours......
  • R. E. Spriggs Co. v. Adolph Coors Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 28, 1974
    ...impinge on commerce in different ways and to differing extents, and the power of Congress may vary accordingly. (See McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 495, 63 S.Ct. 1248, 87 L.Ed. 1538 (1943). Regulation of business practices through the antitrust laws, for example, may justifiably reach f......
  • Adams v. Long & Turner Const. Co., No. 20736.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 3, 1947
    ...v. North Shore Corporation, 318 U.S. 125, 63 S. Ct. 494; Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517, 62 S. Ct. 1116. McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 63 S. Ct. 1248; U.S.C.A., Title 29, Secs. 206, 207, 208. (5) Respondents' Cases under "Engaged in Commerce" Distinguished. Noonan v. Fruco Constru......
  • Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., No. 09–12266.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • November 17, 2011
    ...and [662 F.3d 1316] recurrent use of interstate telephone, telegraph, mails, or travel.Id. (emphasis added) (citing McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 493–98, 63 S.Ct. 1248, 1249–52, 87 L.Ed. 1538 (1943)). For Josendis to survive summary judgment, he needed to produce admissible evidence th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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