MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.
Armour and Company, petitioner, has been held liable to certain employees for overtime, liquidated damages,
Armour and Company operates a soap factory in Chicago which produces goods for interstate commerce. It maintains a private fire-fighting force to supplement that provided by the city. The respondents were employed as fire fighters only, and otherwise had nothing to do with the production of goods. They were not night watchmen, a separate force being maintained for that purpose. They were not given access to the factory premises at night except by call or permission of the watchmen.
These men worked in shifts which began at 8:00 a.m., when they punched a time clock. The following nine hours, with a half hour off for lunch, they worked at inspecting, cleaning, and keeping in order the company's fire-fighting apparatus, which included fire engines, hose, pumps, water barrels and buckets, extinguishers, and a sprinkler system. At 5:00 p.m. they "punched out" on the time clock. Then they remained on call in the fire hall, provided by the Company and located on its property, until the following morning at 8:00. They went off duty entirely for the next twenty-four hours and then resumed work as described.
During this nighttime on duty they were required to stay in the fire hall, to respond to any alarms, to make any temporary repairs of fire apparatus, and take care of the sprinkler system if defective or set off by mischance. The time spent in these tasks was recorded and amounts on average to less than a half hour a week. The employer
The litigation concerns the time during which these men were required to be on the employer's premises, to some extent amenable to the employer's discipline, subject to call, but not engaged in any specific work. The Company provided cooking equipment, beds, radios, and facilities for cards and amusements with which the men slept, ate, or entertained themselves pretty much as they chose. They were not, however, at liberty to leave the premises except that, by permission of the watchman, they might go to a nearby restaurant for their evening meal.
A single fixed weekly wage was paid to the men, regardless of the variation in hours per week spent on regular or on firehouse duty, the schedule of shifts occasioning considerable variation in weekly time.
This fire-fighting service was not maintained at the instance of the Company's officials in charge of production, but at that of its insurance department. Several other plants of Armour and those of numerous other manufacturers in the same industry produce similar goods for commerce without maintaining such a fire-fighting service.
On these facts the petitioner contends: first, that employees in such auxiliary fire-fighting capacity are not engaged in commerce or in production of goods for commerce, or in any occupation necessary to such production within the meaning of the Act; and, second, that even if they were within the Act, time spent in sleeping, eating, playing cards, listening to the radio, or otherwise amusing themselves, cannot be counted as working time. The employees contended in the District Court that all of such stand-by time, however spent, was employment time within the Act, but they took no appeal from the judgment in so far as it was adverse to them.
The District Court held that the employees in such service were covered by the Act. But it declined to go
First. Were the employees in question covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act? Section 7 of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 207, by its own terms applies maximum hours provisions to two general classes of employees, those who are engaged in commerce and those who are engaged in producing goods for commerce. Section 3 (j), 29 U.S.C. § 203 (j), adds another by the provision that "an employee shall be deemed to have been engaged in the production of goods if such employee was employed . . . in any process or occupation necessary to the production" of goods for commerce. The courts below held that the respondents were included in this class. The petitioner seeks to limit those entitled to this classification by reading the word "necessary" in the highly restrictive sense of "indispensable," "essential," and "vital" — words it finds in previous pronouncements of this Court dealing with this clause. Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517, 524-26; Overstreet v. North Shore Corp., 318 U.S. 125, 129, 130. These and other cases, says petitioner, indicate that in applying the Act a distinction must be made between those processes or occupations which an employer finds advantageous in his own plan of production and those without which he could not practically produce at all. Present respondents, it contends, clearly fall within the former category because soap can be and in many other plants is produced without the kind of fire protection which these employees provide.
The argument would give an unwarranted rigidity to the application of the word "necessary," which has always
The fact that respondents were hired by an employer which shows no ostensible purpose for being in business except to produce goods for commerce is not without weight, even though we recognized in Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling that it might not always be decisive (316 U.S. at 525). A court would not readily assume that a corporation's management was spending stockholders' money on a mere hobby or an extravagance. The company does not prove or assert that this fire protection is so unrelated to its business of production that it does not for income-tax
If some of the phrases quoted from previous decisions describe a higher degree of essentiality than these respondents can show, it must be observed that they were all uttered in cases in which the employees were held to be within the Act. A holding that a process or occupation described as "indispensable" or "vital" is one "necessary" within the Act cannot be read as an authority that all which cannot be so described are out of it. McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, which did exclude the employee from the scope of the Act, is not in point here because it involved application of the other clause of the Act, covering employees engaged "in commerce," and the test of whether one is in commerce is obviously more exacting than the test of whether his occupation is necessary to production for commerce.
But we think the previous cases indicate clearly that respondents are within the Act. Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling,
The courts below did not err in holding that respondents were employed in an occupation reasonably necessary to production as carried on by the employer and hence were covered by the Act.
Second. Was it error to count time spent in playing cards and other amusements, or in idleness, as working time?
The overtime provisions of the Act, § 7, 52 Stat. 1063, 29 U.S.C. § 207, apply only to those who are "employees" and to "employment" in excess of the specified hours; § 3 (g), 29 U.S.C. § 203 (g), provides that "`employ' includes to suffer or permit to work."
Here, too, the employer interprets former opinions of the Court as limitations on the Act. It cites statements that the Congressional intent was "to guarantee either regular or overtime compensation for all actual work or employment" and that "Congress here was referring to work or employment . . . as those words are commonly used — as meaning physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business" (italics supplied). Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local, 321 U.S. 590, 597, 598. It is timely again to remind counsel that
Of course an employer, if he chooses, may hire a man to do nothing, or to do nothing but wait for something to happen. Refraining from other activity often is a factor of instant readiness to serve, and idleness plays a part in all employments in a stand-by capacity. Readiness to serve may be hired, quite as much as service itself, and time spent lying in wait for threats to the safety of the employer's property may be treated by the parties as a benefit to the employer. Whether time is spent predominantly for the employer's benefit or for the employee's is a question dependent upon all the circumstances of the case.
That inactive duty may be duty nonetheless is not a new principle invented for application to this Act. In Missouri, K. & T.R. Co. v. United States, 231 U.S. 112, 119, the Court held that inactive time was to be counted in applying a federal Act prohibiting the keeping of employees on duty for more than sixteen consecutive hours. Referring to certain delays, this Court said, "In the meantime the men were waiting, doing nothing. It is argued that they were not on duty during this period and that if it be deducted, they were not kept more than sixteen hours. But they were under orders, liable to be called upon at any moment, and not at liberty to go away. They were none the less on duty when inactive. Their duty was to stand and wait."