Th Street Bldg v. Callus

Decision Date11 June 1945
Docket NumberNo. 820,820
PartiesTH STREET BLDG., Inc., v. CALLUS et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

As amended on Denial of Rehearing Oct. 8, 1945.

Mr. Joseph M. Proskauer, of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Monroe Goldwater, of New York City, for respondents.

Bessie Margolin, of Washington, D.C., for Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, amicus curiae by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regulates wages and hours not only of employees who are 'engaged in commerce' but also those engaged 'in the production of goods for commerce.' Sections 6, 7, 52 Stat. 1060, 1062, 1063, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 206, 207. For the purposes of that Act 'an employee shall be deemed to have been engaged in the production of goods if such an employee was employed * * * in any process or occupation necessary to the production thereof, in any State.' Section 3(j), 29 U.S.C.A. § 203(j). When these provisions first came here we made it abundantly clear that their enforcement would involve the courts in the empiric process of drawing lines from case to case, and inevitably nice lines. Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517, 62 S.Ct. 1116, 86 L.Ed. 1638. And this for two reasons. In enacting this statute Congress did not see fit, as it did in other regulatory measures, e.g., the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq., and the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., to exhaust its constitutional power over commerce. And 'Unlike the Interstate Commerce Act * * * and the National Labor Relations Act and other legislation, the Fair Labor Standards Act puts upon the courts the independent responsibility of applying ad hoc the general terms of the statute to an infinite variety of complicated industrial situations.' Kirschbaum v. Walling, supra, 316 U.S. at page 523, 62 S.Ct. at page 1120, 86 L.Ed. 1638. Thus, Congress withheld from the courts the aid of constitutional criteria, compare, e.g., Currin v. Wallace, 306 U.S. 1, 59 S.Ct. 379, 83 L.Ed. 441; Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 63 S.Ct. 82, 87 L.Ed. 122; Polish Nat. Alliance v. National Labor Relations Board, 322 U.S. 643, 64 S.Ct. 1196, 88 L.Ed. 1509, as well as the benefit of a prior judgment, on vexing and ambiguous facts, by an expert administrative agency. Compare, e.g., National Labor Relations Board v. Fruehauf Trailer Co., 301 U.S. 49, 57 S.Ct. 642, 81 L.Ed. 918, 108 A.L.R. 1352; Gray v. Powell, 314 U.S. 402, 412, 62 S.Ct. 326, 86 L.Ed. 301.

The Act has produced a considerable volume of litigation and has inevitably given rise to judicial con licts and divisions. The lower courts, and only in a lesser measure this Court, have been plagued with problems in connection with employees of buildings occupied by those having at least some relation to goods that eventually find their way into interstate commerce.

In Kirschbaum v. Walling, supra, we were concerned with maintenance employees of buildings concededly devoted to manufacture for commerce. In Borden Co. v. Borella, 325 U.S. 679, 65 S.Ct. 1223, the Fair Labor Standards Act was invoked on behalf of maintenance employees of a building owned by an interstate producer and predominantly occupied for its offices. Recognizing that the question in every case is 'whether the particular situation is within in regulated area,' we concluded that the employees of the buildings in the Kirschbaum case 'had such a close and immediate tie with the process of production' carried on by the lessees as to come within the Act. The Borden case involved Borden employees who, if they had been under the same roof where the physical handling of the goods took place, could hardly, without drawing gossamer and not merely nice lines, be deemed not to be engaged in an 'occupation necessary to the production of goods' as described by § 3(j). To differentiate, in the incidence of the Fair Labor Standards Act, between main- tenance employees who worked in the building where the business of the manufacture of milk products goes on and employees pursuing the same occupation for the Borden enterprise in an office separate from the manufacturing building, is to make too much turn on the accident of the division of the whole industrial process. The case immediately before us presents still a third situation differing both from Kirschbaum and Borden.

The facts are these. Petitioner owns and manages a 48-story New York office building. The offices are leased to more than a hundred tenants pursuing a great variety of enterprises including executive and sales offices of manufacturing and mining concerns, sales agencies representing such concerns, engineering and construction firms, advertising and publicity agencies, law firms, investment and credit organizations and the United States Employment Service. The distribution of occupancy in relation to the ultimate enterprises of the different groups of tenants was the subject of conflicting testimony and interpretation, but in our view does not call for particularization. Indisputably, the building is devoted exclusively to offices, and no manufacturing is carried on within it. The respondents are maintenance employees of the building, elevator starters and operators, window cleaners, watchmen and the like. They brought this suit under § 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act for claims of overtime payment to which they are entitled if their occupations be deemed 'necessary to the production' of goods for commerce. Obviously they are not 'engaged in commerce.' The District Court dismissed the suit. 51 F.Supp. 528. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 146 F.2d 438. By a meticulous calculation, it found that the executive offices of manufacturing and mining concerns, sales agencies representing such concerns, and publicity concerns were engaged in the production of goods for interstate commerce, and, since the offices of these concerns occupied 42% of the rentable area and 48% of the rented area, the maintenance employees of the owners of the building are engaged in occupations 'necessary for the production' of goods for commerce. Conflict between this result and that reached by other circuits led us to bring the case here. 324 U.S. 833, 65 S.Ct. 678.1

The series of cases in which we have had to decide when employees are engaged in an 'occupation necessary to the product on' of goods for commerce has settled at least some matters. Merely because an occupation involves a function not indispensable to the production of goods, in the sense that it can be done without, does not exclude it from the scope of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Conversely, merely because an occupation is indispensable, in the sense of being included in the long chain of causation which brings about so complicated a result as finished goods, does not bring it within the scope of the Fain Labor Standards Act. See Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 63 S.Ct. 332, 87 L.Ed. 460; Walton v. Southern Package Corporation, 320 U.S. 540, 64 S.Ct. 320, 88 L.Ed. 298; Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 65 S.Ct. 165; Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 65 S.Ct. 161. In giving a fair application to § 3(j), courts must remember that the 'necessary' in the phrase 'necessary to the production' of goods for commerce 'is colored by the context not only of the terms of this legislation but of its implications in the relation between state and national authority.' Kirschbaum v. Walling, supra, at page 525, 62 S.Ct. 1121, 86 L.Ed. 1638. For as was pointed out in Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., supra, 317 U.S. at page 570, 63 S.Ct. 336, 87 L.Ed. 460, we cannot 'be unmindful that Congress in enacting this statute plainly indicated its purpose to leave local business to the protection of the states.' We must be alert, therefore, not to absorb by adjudication essentially local activities that Congress did not see fit to take over by legislation.

Renting office space in a building exclusively set aside for an unrestricted variety of office work spontaneously satisfies the common understanding of what is local business and makes the employees of such a building engaged in local business. Mere separation of an occupation from the physical process of production does not preclude application of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But remoteness of a particular occupation from the physical process is a relevant factor in drawing the line. Running an office building as an entirely independent enterprise is too many steps removed from the physical process of the production of goods. Such remoteness is insulated from the Fair Labor Standards Act by those considerations pertinent to the federal system which led Congress not to sweep predominantly local situations within the confines of the Act. To assign the maintenance men of such an office building to the productive process because some proportion of the offices in the building may, for the time being, be offices of manufacturing enterprises is to indulge in an analysis too attenuated for appropriate regard to the regulatory power of the States which Congress saw fit to reserve to them. Dialectic inconsistencies do not weaken the validity of practical adjustments, as between the State and federal authority, when Congress has cast the duty of making them upon the courts. Our problem is not an exercise in scholastic logic.

The differences between employees of a building owned by occupants producing therein goods for commerce, and the employees of a building intended for tenants who produce such goods therein, and the employees of the office building of a large interstate producer, are too thin for the practicalities of adjudication. But an office building exclusively devoted to the purpose of housing all the usual miscellany of offices has many differences in the practical affairs of life from a manufacturing...

To continue reading

Request your trial
105 cases
  • Shultz v. Blaustein Industries, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • January 18, 1971
    ...L.Ed. 1638 (1942); Borden Co. v. Borella, 325 U.S. 679, 65 S.Ct. 1223, 89 L.Ed. 1865 (1945); and 10 East 40th Street Building, Inc. v. Callus, 325 U.S. 578, 65 S.Ct. 1227, 89 L.Ed. 1806 (1945). The test then was whether the services were "necessary" to the production of goods for commerce. ......
  • Crooker v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 16, 1981
    ...are not the worse for being narrow if they are drawn on rational considerations." 10 E. 40th St. Building, Inc. v. Callus, 325 U.S. 578, 584, 65 S.Ct. 1227, 1230, 89 L.Ed. 1806 (1945) (Frankfurter, J.). The release of material in Jordan served fundamental public interests and helped police ......
  • Brennan v. Wilson Building, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 22, 1973
    ...on two decisions, one of which is distinguishable from the facts of the present appeal, 10 East 40th Street Building, Inc. v. Callus, 325 U.S. 578, 65 S.Ct. 1227, 89 L.Ed. 1806 (1945), and the other with which we disagree, Houchin v. Thompson, 438 F.2d 927 (6th Cir. 1970). Although the fact......
  • Goldberg v. Wade Lahar Construction Company
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • April 13, 1961
    ...limits which might constitutionally have been reached (Kirschbaum, 316 U.S. at page 523, 62 S.Ct. at page 1120; 10 East 40th St., 325 U.S. at pages 579-580, 65 S.Ct. at page 1228); and to the lack of certain statutory definitions (Bay Ridge, 334 U.S. at page 460, 68 S.Ct. at page 1194; Zach......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT