Walling v. Harnischfeger Corporation, No. 956

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTONE; ROBERTS
Citation325 U.S. 427,65 S.Ct. 1246,89 L.Ed. 1711
PartiesWALLING, Administrator of Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, v. HARNISCHFEGER CORPORATION
Docket NumberNo. 956
Decision Date04 June 1945

325 U.S. 427
65 S.Ct. 1246
89 L.Ed. 1711
WALLING, Administrator of Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor,

v.

HARNISCHFEGER CORPORATION.

No. 956.
Argued May 1, 1945.
Decided June 4, 1945.

Page 428

Mr. Irving J. Levy, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Leo Mann, of Milwaukee, Wis., for respondent.

mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Here, as in Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., 325 U.S. 419, 65 S.Ct. 1242, we are concerned with the problem of whether a particular type of wage agreement meets the requirements of Section 7(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.1

Respondent is a Wisconsin corporation engaged in producing electrical products for interstate commerce. About one-half of respondent's production employees, called incentive or piece workers, are involved in this case.

As a result of collective bargaining by their union, these employees entered into a collective agreement with respondent whereby they are each paid a basic hourly rate plus an 'incentive bonus' or 'piecework earnings.' The various jobs performed by these incentive workers are 'time studied' by the management. The time which the job is shown to consume is multiplied by a 'standard earning rate'2 per unit of time. The amount so obtained is known as the 'price' placed on that job. When an employee is given work on a job that has been so priced, he receives a job card bearing the price.

The worker is paid his agreed base or hourly rate (ranging from 55 cents to $1.05 per hour) for the time which

Page 429

he takes to perform the job. If the job price exceeds this base pay, he ultimately receives the difference between the two amounts. The excess of the job price over the hourly earnings is known as an 'incentive bonus' or 'piecework earnings.' Thus the sooner a job is completed the greater will be this incentive bonus. When the job price is smaller than the hourly earnings the employee receives only the hourly rate for the time worked, being assured of that rate regardless of his efficiency or speed. About 98.5% of the incentive workers, however, work with sufficient efficiency and speed to earn compensation over and above their base pay. These incentive bonuses were found by the District Court to form about 22% of the total compensation received each pay day by these workers, exclusive of overtime payments, although respondent claims th t the bonuses vary from 5% to 29% of each payroll.

On many jobs which have not been 'time studied' the respondent has agreed to pay, and does pay, each incentive worker an hourly rate at least 20% higher than his basic hourly rate. And when an incentive worker is temporarily assigned to 'non-incentive' work he is paid at least 20% more than his basic hourly rate. Moreover, vacation pay is based on an employee's average hourly straight time earnings over a three-month period and not on his base rate.

These incentive workers frequently work in excess of the statutory maximum workweek. For these extra hours they receive a premium of 50% of the basic hourly rate, which does not reflect the incentive bonuses received. Likewise, when incentive workers are working on jobs that have not been 'time studied' or are temporarily doing 'non-incentive' work they receive overtime pay on the basis of their basic hourly rates rather than on the 20% higher hourly rates actually paid them during the non-overtime hours.

The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor brought this action to compel

Page 430

the respondent to comply with the provisions of Section 7(a) of the Act. In defense, respondent pointed to the provision in the collective contract to the effect that 'the parties agree that, for all purposes, the regular rate of pay at which each employee who participates in an incentive plan is employed, is the base rate of each such employee.' The District Court held that the respondent was violating the Act by excluding from the computation of overtime the piece rates actually paid. 54 F.Supp. 326. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that judgment by a divided vote. 145 F.2d 589.

Our attention here is focused upon a determination of the regular rate of compensation at which the incentive workers at which the incentive workers are employed. To discover that rate, as in the Youngerman-Reynolds case, we look not to contract nomenclature but to the actual payments, exclusive of those paid for overtime, which the parties have agreed shall be paid during each workweek.

It is evident that all the incentive workers receive a guaranteed basic hourly pay as a minimum. As to those who receive no regular additional payments during their non-overtime hours the respondent complies fully with Section 7(a) by paying them one and one-half time the basic hourly rate for all overtime hours. But the vast majority of the employees do receive regular though fluctuating amounts for work done during their non-overtime hours in addition to their basic hourly pay.

(1) Those who receive hourly rates at least 20% higher than their guaranteed base rates clearly are paid a regular rate identical with the higher rate and the failure of respondent to pay them for overtime labor on the basis of such a rate is a plain violation of the terms and spirit of Section 7(a). No contract designation of the base rate as the 'regular rate' can negative the fact that these employees do in fact regularly receive the higher rate. To compute overtime compensation from the lower and unreceived rate

Page 431

is not only unrealistic but is destructive of the legislative intent. A full 50% increase in labor costs and a full 50% wage premium, which were meant to flow from the operation of Section 7(a), are impossible of achievement under such a computation.

(2) Those who receive incentive bonuses in addition to their guaranteed base pay clearly receive a greater regular rate than the minimum base rate.3 If they received only piece work wages it is indisputable that the regular rate would be the equivalent of the translation of those wages into an hourly rate. United States v. Rosenwasser, 323 U.S. 360, 65 S.Ct. 295. It follows that piece work wages forming only a part of the normal weekly income must also be an ingredient of the statutory regular rate. Piece work wages do not escape the force of Section 7(a) merely because they are paid in addition to a minimum hourly pa guaranteed by contract. Indeed, from another viewpoint, the incentive employees so compensated are in fact paid entirely on a piece work basis with a minimum hourly guaranty.4 The conclusion that only the minimum hourly rate constitutes the regular rate opens an easy path for evading the plain

Page 432

design of Section 7(a). We cannot sanction such a patent disregard of statutory duties.

In this instance 98.5% of the incentive employees receive incentive bonuses in addition to their guaranteed hourly wages, demonstrating that such bonuses are a normal and regular part of their income. Once the parties agree that these employees should receive such piece work wages, those wages automatically enter into the computation of the regular rate for purposes of Section 7(a) regardless of any contract provision to the contrary. Moreover, where the facts do not permit it, we cannot arbitrarily divide bonuses or piece work wages into regular and overtime segments, thereby creating an artificial compliance with Section 7(a).

It matters not how significant the basic hourly rates may be in determining the compensation in situations where incentive bonuses are not paid. When employees do earn more than the basic hourly rates because of the operation of the incentive bonus plan the basic rates lose their significance in determining the actual rate of compensation. Nor is it of controlling importance that the respondent now pays a premium for overtime employment so as to make the overtime rate somewhat above the piece work earnings per hour.5 Until that premium is 50% of the actual hourly rate received from at regular sources Section 7(a) has not been satisfied.

Respondent also points to the fact that the incentive bonuses are often not determined or paid until weeks or even months after the semi-monthly paydays, due to the nature of the 'priced' jobs. But Section 7(a) does not require the impossible. If the correct overtime compensation cannot be determined until some time after the regular pay period the employer is not thereby excused from making the proper computation and payment. Section 7(a)

Page 433

requires only that the employees receive a 50% premium as soon as convenient or practicable under the circumstances

The judgment of the court below is reversed and that of the District Court is affirmed.

Reversed.

For concurring opinion of Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, see 65 S.Ct. djQ Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, concurring.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq., does not prohibit employment at piece-work rates. It merely requires that piece-work earnings be converted to an hourly basis for determining the minimum and overtime requirements of that Act. United States v. Rosenwasser, 323 U.S. 360, 65 S.Ct. 295. Nor does the Act bar an agreement establishing an hourly 'regular rate' that does not fall short of the statutory minimum even though it be complicated by a guaranteed weekly lump sum wage adapted to the circumstances of...

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79 practice notes
  • Burke v. Mesta Mach. Co., Civil Action No. 2744.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 27, 1948
    ...included in the "regular rate" is concluded by the decisions of the Supreme Court in Walling v. Harnischfeger Corporation, 325 U.S. 427, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711; Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., 325 U.S. 419, 65 S.Ct. 1242, 89 L.Ed. 1705; Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, 323 U......
  • White v. Davis, No. S108099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 1, 2003
    ...reporting forms that it collects on or immediately following the preceding payday. (Cf. Walling v. Harnischfeger Corporation (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 432-433, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711 ["Section 7(a) [the overtime provision of the FLSA] does not require the impossible. If the correct overtim......
  • Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, B283218
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 9, 2019
    ...bonuses "[that] are a normal and regular part of [an employee’s] income." ( Walling v. Harnischfeger Corp . (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 432, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711.)1. Interpretive principles"In statutory construction cases, our fundamental task is to ascertain the intent of the lawmakers so......
  • Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, S259172
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 15, 2021
    ...overtime, which the parties have agreed shall be paid during each workweek." ( Walling v. Harnischfeger Corp. (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 430, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711 ( Harnischfeger ); see Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co. (1945) 325 U.S. 419, 424, 65 S.Ct. 1250, 89 L.Ed. 1705 ( Ha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
79 cases
  • Burke v. Mesta Mach. Co., Civil Action No. 2744.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 27, 1948
    ...included in the "regular rate" is concluded by the decisions of the Supreme Court in Walling v. Harnischfeger Corporation, 325 U.S. 427, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711; Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., 325 U.S. 419, 65 S.Ct. 1242, 89 L.Ed. 1705; Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, 323 U......
  • White v. Davis, No. S108099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 1, 2003
    ...reporting forms that it collects on or immediately following the preceding payday. (Cf. Walling v. Harnischfeger Corporation (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 432-433, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711 ["Section 7(a) [the overtime provision of the FLSA] does not require the impossible. If the correct overtim......
  • Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, B283218
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 9, 2019
    ...bonuses "[that] are a normal and regular part of [an employee’s] income." ( Walling v. Harnischfeger Corp . (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 432, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711.)1. Interpretive principles"In statutory construction cases, our fundamental task is to ascertain the intent of the lawmakers so......
  • Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, S259172
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 15, 2021
    ...overtime, which the parties have agreed shall be paid during each workweek." ( Walling v. Harnischfeger Corp. (1945) 325 U.S. 427, 430, 65 S.Ct. 1246, 89 L.Ed. 1711 ( Harnischfeger ); see Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co. (1945) 325 U.S. 419, 424, 65 S.Ct. 1250, 89 L.Ed. 1705 ( Ha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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