The parties agree that the principal question presented is whether Section 23 of the Independent Offices Appropriation Act, 1935,
The section, in full, is:
"The weekly compensation, minus any general percentage reduction which may be prescribed by Act of Congress, for the several trades and occupations, which is set by wage boards or other wage-fixing authorities, shall be reestablished and maintained at rates not lower than necessary to restore the full weekly earnings of such employees in accordance with the full-time weekly earnings under the respective wage schedules in effect on June 1, 1932: Provided, That the regular hours of labor shall not be more than forty per week; and all overtime shall be compensated for at the rate of not less than time and one half."
Between March 28, 1934, and August 31, 1939, the respondent was employed by the Panama Canal successively as operator, chief operator, and master of a dredge, and was paid on a monthly basis at rates fixed by the Governor of the Canal Zone upon recommendation of a wage board. The respondent's normal work week consisted of six 8-hour days. He retired August 29, 1939, and then, for the
The Court of Claims held that he was engaged in one of the "trades and occupations" whose compensation "is set by wage boards or other wage-fixing authorities" covered by the Act. We think this conclusion is right and do not understand the petitioner now to contest it. The court further held that the statute embraced those employes of the Canal Zone whose wages are paid on a monthly basis. This the Government contests, relying on the words of the Act, on administrative practice and on legislative history. A statement of the background of the legislation and its application seems necessary to decision.
In 1923 Congress adopted the "Classification Act"
The Act of March 28, 1934, with which we are here concerned, was the last of the so-called Economy Acts intended to decrease expenses by reduction of compensation
By the Act of March 20, 1933,
When the bill which became the Act of March 28, 1934 was under consideration, a representative of a labor organization appeared before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and advocated legislation to prohibit certain discriminatory reductions in the wages of per diem Navy Yard workers. He pointed to the continuance of the practice of furloughing them one day in each two weeks, thus reducing the hours worked to 40 per week, and showed that this, in addition to the 15% reduction of pay required by the economy act then in force, actually cut their base pay over 22%. He also complained of other practices which had the effect of reducing their compensation. He expressed the fear that if Congress abolished the 15% level cut, wage boards would at once take action to reduce existing wage scales. He proposed a provision which would prohibit reduction of wages below the wage scales which were in effect June 1, 1932, but suggested
Senator Thomas offered the present § 23 on the floor of the Senate, stating merely
The amendment was adopted without further reference to it in either House of Congress. The President vetoed the bill, which was passed over his veto. On that occasion a Senator inquired whether certain language in the President's veto message referred to the provisions of § 23 and the reply was that the Senator interrogated did not know whether this was so. We shall shortly see that the section did substantially more than Senator Thomas stated in his brief explanation.
Prior to the effective date of the Act, the respondent's regular hours of work were 48 per week, though he was often required to work 52. Shortly after § 23 became law, the Governor of the Panama Canal requested the Comptroller
Notwithstanding this ruling, the Governor attempted to reduce the monthly employes' compensation by putting them on an hourly basis. This he did by dividing the monthly salary paid June 1, 1932, by 224, the number of hours he estimated they worked per month made up of eight hours per day for six days per week, sixteen hours per month for occasional overtime and an allowance for occasional work on Sundays and holidays. This computation showed they had been worked 52 hours per week. Having thus ascertained what he deemed their hourly wages, he added 20% to the hourly wage, so that they would receive the same amount for a 40-hour week as they would theretofore have received for a 48-hour week, despite the fact that they had been working and had been paid for more than 48 hours according to his computation of their prior hourly earnings. The net result was substantially to reduce their monthly earnings. After complaint by the employes, the Governor submitted
Apparently relying on the Comptroller General's statement that employes on a monthly wage basis were not entitled to overtime, the Governor continued to work the respondent 48 hours a week but paid him no overtime. This in spite of his knowledge that the 40-hour week limitation was also applicable to the respondent if other parts of § 23 were so applicable. In his second submission to the Comptroller General he stated his understanding of the latter's decision that monthly employes
It seems evident that the Governor's action cannot be justified. If § 23 applied in the case of the respondent, his work week should have been 40 hours. If, in spite of § 23, his monthly stipend covered every day and every hour of the month whether service was rendered or not, as the Comptroller General had said, so that respondent could not be paid for overtime, then he should not have been regularly worked overtime.
With this outline of the situation, we are brought to a consideration of the Government's contention that § 23 has no application to the respondent's compensation.
We turn first to the suggestion that the expressions "weekly compensation" and "weekly earnings" control all of the provisions of the section and that hence both the affirmative provisions and the prohibition contained in the proviso apply only to those employes who receive weekly wages. As the record, however, fails to indicate that any of the Government employes were paid by the week, it is said that the term "weekly" was used as a method of adjusting the wages of per hour or per diem employes because a 40-hour work week could easily be calculated in their case as the measure of weekly work and compensation whereas it could not so readily be applied to monthly employes. But we think this suggestion does not comport either with the provisions or the obvious purpose of the legislation. The section commanded not only that wages reduced as a result of furloughs and uncompensated overtime should be reestablished but also that, for the future, such wages should be maintained at the June 1, 1932, level, subject only to the applicable percentage reductions provided by the Economy Acts. It sought to forbid indirect reduction of wages by the provision
If the Government is right, § 23 had no application to respondent and those in like case and the Governor could have maintained a 52-hour work week at the old rate of pay or could have cut the work week with a corresponding reduction in pay. The result would be, as the court below pointed out, that an Act of Congress, on its face applicable to all employes, including monthly employes, which declared that the weekly wages of employes "shall be reestablished and maintained at rates not lower than" the 1932 rate would for the first time have authorized the cutting of the wages of monthly employes below the 1932 level while the wages of all others were being restored to that level. As we have seen, the Comptroller General ruled that such a cut in respondent's pay was "in contravention of the plain terms of the statute."
We are clear that the Comptroller General was right in ruling that the statute applied not only to per diem or hourly employes but also to employes paid on a monthly basis, such as respondent, whose compensation was fixed by a wage board. We are also clear that, on the face of the statute, if the Governor, in the teeth of the statutory provision, worked such employees more than 40 hours a week, the overtime provision of § 23 required payment
The Government seeks to avoid such a construction of the Act by invoking asserted administrative practice and legislative history. It relies heavily on the statement made to the subcommittee, to which we have heretofore referred. With respect to this statement, we think it enough to say that the spokesman was complaining about discriminations against employes paid by the day or the hour but he nowhere suggests the propriety of distinguishing between such employes and those paid on a monthly basis but worked more than 40 hours per week. He advocates setting the June 1, 1932, standard as a minimum subject only to percentage reductions provided by the Economy Act. He envisages the fact that if the work week is reduced to 40 hours and the June 1932 standard is thus reestablished, the result will be an increase in wages to the employes concerned. The considerations of equity on which he relies apply quite as much to employes paid by the month as to those paid by the day or hour. Moreover, as above stated, the draft he submitted was not adopted. On the contrary, one differently worded became § 23 of the statute.
The Government next relies on the fact that, prior to the adoption of § 23, no overtime was paid to employes who were on a monthly or annual basis. But, as we shall see, the full application of the principle of a work week limited to specified hours, and payment of overtime for extra hours, was gradually adopted by the Congress, and the fact that the old practice was abolished piecemeal can have little weight in determining whether, as respects the employes embraced in its terms, § 23 abolished the distinction amongst those embraced in trades and occupations whose compensation was fixed by wage boards. Moreover, the section essayed to deal only with a special class of employes whose working conditions are more
The Government also relies on the prior practice in the Canal Zone, but we think this inconclusive. By the Act of August 24, 1912,
The Governor's attempt to reduce the compensation of the respondent by working him overtime and not paying him for his overtime, in the teeth of the statute and the Comptroller General's ruling, certainly cannot be accorded weight in construing the statute.
The Government produced at the trial of the case in the court below certain letters from the Navy Department, the Government Printing Office, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the Treasury Department stating that they had interpreted § 23 as applying only to per diem and hourly employes, and that no overtime had been paid to employes working on a monthly or yearly basis. These letters do not state, however, that these branches regularly worked such employes overtime, as did the Governor of the Canal Zone, without paying for overtime work.
The Secretary of the Navy submitted certain questions respecting § 23 to the Comptroller General immediately after the enactment of the section. One was whether per annum or per month employes who worked in excess of 40 hours a week "because of an extraordinary emergency" should be paid overtime. The Comptroller answered in the negative, referring to his decision rendered the Government Printing Office
Finally, the Government argues that related legislation indicates Congress did not intend § 23 to apply to employes
As early as 1883 Congress authorized the Public Printer to pay extra prices in accordance with the customs of the trade and the justice of the case for extra work ordered in emergencies, performed on Sundays or legal holidays or at night, if performed by other than regular night forces.
In 1888 Congress prescribed an 8-hour day with payment for overtime for letter carriers of the United States Postal Service,
In 1911 provision was made for overtime pay of employes of the Customs Service required by the nature of their service to work after 5 P.M.
In 1919 the Secretary of Agriculture was authorized to pay employes of the Bureau of Animal Industry, employed in industrial establishments in the inspection of meat, for overtime work.
The Government lays great stress on a report of the Committee on Naval Affairs reporting this legislation to the Senate.
In the same year Congress passed another Act on the subject of overtime.
"notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, compensation for employment in excess of forty hours in any administrative workweek computed at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate is hereby authorized to be paid at such places and to such monthly,
Such light as we gain from the discussion in Congress indicates that Congress already understood that overtime was payable to certain employes of the Panama Canal by virtue of § 23 of the Act of 1934, but that it was desired to extend the limitation of hours per week and the payment of overtime to employes of the field services of the Army and the field services of the Panama Canal. Thus, in the debate, Mr. Ramspeck, of the House Committee on Civil Service, said:
"The Secretary of War and the Assistant Secretary of War . . . say that they have the legal authority now to pay overtime to certain employees of the War Department in the arsenals and at the Panama Canal, but as to others they have not this authority and this creates a bad administrative situation. They have recommended this bill, which has passed the Senate, and it is my understanding we have given the same authority to the Navy Department as to the Navy yards."
Finally, in 1942, by Joint Resolution, Congress provided for overtime pay for Government employes generally
The same misapprehension with respect to the effect and administration of the Act of 1934 seems to have prevailed when the War Overtime Pay Act of 1943
We think this summary of the legislation on the subject is not conclusive or even strongly persuasive as an aid to the construction of the Act under consideration as of the time when Congress adopted it. It seems that there was no very clear and general policy with respect to the payment of overtime until the exigencies of the war called for compensation of Government employes as a class on a basis similar to that adopted in private industry. When the time came to make such general provision, the more or less haphazard dealing with the subject theretofore seems not to have been clearly in mind.
We reach then the question whether the court adopted the correct method of calculating the overtime compensation. The respondent submitted a computation whereby he multiplied his monthly salary by twelve and divided the result by fifty-two to ascertain his weekly salary. He divided the weekly salary by five to obtain his daily pay for an 8-hour day for each week that he had worked a sixth day. He took the number of weeks in which he had worked a sixth day and multiplied that number by the ascertained daily wage, plus one-half. The Government argued in the court below, and argues in this court, that the monthly wage of the respondent covered every day of the month because the Government hired his full time. As a result, it is said, his daily pay should be one-thirtieth of his monthly pay.
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE MURPHY concurs in the result.
The CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE JACKSON and MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE dissent.