MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether the Eight Hour Law
This Act provides that
Penalties are specified for violations. In 1940 the prohibition against workdays of longer than eight hours was modified as follows:
In 1941 petitioners contracted on a cost-plus basis to build certain public works on behalf of the United States in the East and Near East, particularly in Iraq and Iran. Petitioners agreed in the contract to "obey and abide by all applicable laws, regulations, ordinances, and other rules of the United States of America." The provisions of the Eight Hour Law were not specifically included in the contract. In 1942 petitioners hired respondent, an American citizen, to work on the construction projects as a cook at sixty dollars a week. This contract of employment contained no provision concerning hours of work or overtime. Pursuant to the contract, respondent went to Iraq and Iran where he frequently worked more than eight hours a day during the years 1942 and 1943.
Upon the refusal of his request for overtime pay for work in excess of eight hours per day, he brought suit against petitioners in the Supreme Court of New York, claiming that the Act entitled him to one and one-half times the basic rate of pay for such work. The court denied petitioners' motions to dismiss the case and for a directed verdict, thereby overruling the contention that the Act did not apply to contracts which were to be performed in foreign countries. Judgment was entered on a jury verdict for respondent. The Appellate Division reversed on the ground that the Eight Hour Law as amended did not confer a right of action on an employee for overtime pay. 272 App. Div. 446, 71 N.Y.S.2d 592.
Since the question is one of statutory interpretation, the Act as it now exists, 40 U.S.C. §§ 321-326, is our starting point. In pertinent part it provides for the limitation to eight hours per day of the working time of laborers and mechanics employed by the government or any contractor thereof on a public work of the United States. § 321. The same section makes it unlawful to require or permit work in excess of eight hours per day except in extraordinary emergencies. An intentional violation of this mandate is made a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. § 322. The insertion in "every contract" made by or on behalf of the United States of this restriction on hours of work is required by § 324. The contracts must stipulate a monetary penalty for violation, which penalty takes the form of a withholding by the government of moneys otherwise due the contractor under the terms of the contract. § 324. Finally the restriction is lifted as to employees of private contractors by § 325a, supra, pp. 282-283, on condition that hours worked in excess of eight be paid for at the overtime rate.
The question before us is not the power of Congress to extend the Eight Hour Law to work performed in foreign countries. Petitioners concede that such power exists. Cf. Blackmer v. United States, 284 U.S. 421; United States v. Bowman, 260 U.S. 94. The question is
First. The canon of construction which teaches that legislation of Congress, unless a contrary intent appears, is meant to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, Blackmer v. United States, supra, at 437, is a valid approach whereby unexpressed congressional intent may be ascertained. It is based on the assumption that Congress is primarily concerned with domestic conditions. We find nothing in the Act itself, as amended, nor in the legislative history, which would lead to the belief that Congress entertained any intention other than the normal one in this case. The situation here is different from that in Vermilya-Brown Co. v. Connell, 335 U.S. 377, where we held that by specifically declaring that the Act covered "possessions" of the United States, Congress directed that the Fair Labor Standards Act applied beyond those areas over which the United States has sovereignty and was in effect in all "possessions." This Court concluded that the leasehold there involved was a "possession" within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
There is no language in the Eight Hour Law, here in question, that gives any indication of a congressional purpose to extend its coverage beyond places over which the United States has sovereignty or has some measure of legislative control. There is nothing brought to our attention indicating that the United States had been granted by the respective sovereignties any authority, legislative or otherwise, over the labor laws or customs of Iran or Iraq. We were on their territory by their leave, but without the transfer of any property rights to us.
Second. The legislative history of the Eight Hour Law reveals that concern with domestic labor conditions led Congress to limit hours of work. The genesis of the present statute was the Act of June 25, 1868, 15 Stat. 77, which was apparently aimed at unemployment resulting from decreased construction in government navy yards. Congressional Globe, 40th Cong., 2d Sess., Part I, p. 335. In 1892, when the coverage of this Act was extended to employees of government contractors and when criminal
The Act was amended in 1912 to include "every contract." [Italics supplied.] The insertion of the word "every" was designed to remedy a misinterpretation according to which the Act did not apply to work performed on private property by government contractors. 48 Cong. Rec. 381, 385, 394-95. Nothing in the legislative history supports the conclusion of respondent and the court below that "every contract" must of necessity, by virtue of the broadness of the language, include contracts for work to be performed in foreign countries.
The 1940 amendment which permitted work in excess of eight hours per day upon payment of overtime, 54 Stat. 884, passed without any discussion indicative of geographical scope. 86 Cong. Rec. 11216-11217.
Third. The administrative interpretations of the Eight Hour Law in its various phases of development afford no touchstone by which its geographic scope can be determined. Executive Order No. 8623 of December 31, 1940, 3 C.F.R. Cum. Supp. 850, issued pursuant to § 326 of the Act, suspended the law as to laborers and mechanics employed directly by the government at Atlantic bases leased from Great Britain. Such a suspension indicated, to be sure, a conclusion on the part of the President that the statute applied, or might apply, to these bases. Such action, however, may well have been predicated on the premise that the leases with the provisions discussed in our Vermilya-Brown decision were sufficiently subject to our control so that the Eight Hour Law would apply to them. Though numerous Executive Orders have been issued which suspend the operation of the Act in the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, etc., we have not been able to find, nor has our attention been directed, to any orders purporting to suspend its operation in countries not subject to our legislative control.
It is true that in 1905 Attorney General Moody, in a letter to the Secretary of War, expressed the opinion that the Eight Hour Law applied to public works to be constructed in the Canal Zone. 25 Op. Atty. Gen. 441. For the purpose of his opinion he treated the Canal Zone as foreign territory. Id., at 444. No distinction was drawn between citizen and alien laborers. If we accept the Attorney General's assumption as to the status of the Canal Zone,
Although the statute expressly requires the inclusion in every government public-works contract of the eight-hour provision, the Secretary of the Treasury has approved a standard form for construction contracts which contains eight-hour provisions but which provides that the use of the form will not be required in foreign countries. U.S. Standard Form No. 23, 41 U.S.C. App. § 12.23, pp. 4520, 4522. The inclusion of such provisions is also required by War Department Procurement Regulation No. 3, ¶ 346, in "all contracts subject to the provisions of the Eight Hour Law." Yet neither the instant contract nor others covering off-continent operations contain the Eight Hour Law clause.
We conclude that administrative interpretations of the Act, although not specifically directed at the precise problem before us, tend to support petitioners' contention as to its restricted geographical scope.
Since we decide that the Eight Hour Law is inapplicable to a contract for the construction of public works in a foreign country over which the United States has no direct legislative control, it is unnecessary to decide
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, with whom MR. JUSTICE JACKSON joins, concurring.
Because the decision in Vermilya-Brown Co. v. Connell, 335 U.S. 377, was one of statutory interpretation, I would feel bound by it were it not still open because rendered at this Term. If I felt bound by it, I would be obliged to dissent in this case.
We are here confronted by a statute which in terms covers "every contract made to which the United States . . . is a party." 37 Stat. 137, 40 U.S.C. § 324. Yet the Court construes it as inapplicable even to the work of a citizen of the United States under a contract between the United States and a corporation domiciled in the United States because "An intention so to regulate labor conditions which are the primary concern of a foreign country should not be attributed to Congress in the absence of a clearly expressed purpose." For this conclusion reliance is put upon an opinion of Attorney General Stone which refused to interpret the statute as applying to work done upon the American Embassy at London on the ground that "the enforcement of the statutory provision would disturb the agreements entered into between contractors and laborers and mechanics in a foreign country." 34 Op. Atty. Gen. 257, 260. Support is also found in an opinion of the Comptroller General which reaches a similar conclusion on the basis that "such an application of the statute might easily lead to serious difficulties in effecting contracts for necessary services in countries where social and business conditions and customs differ widely from our own." 19 Comp. Gen. 516, 518.
But there are other respects in which the Vermilya-Brown case presented more compelling reasons than we have here for refusing to attribute to Congress an intention to regulate the conditions of work of foreign employees. Here we are required only to construe a phrase, "every contract made to which the United States . . . is a party," which is peculiar to its own context. In the Vermilya-Brown case, however, the Court held that our leased bases fell within the term "possessions," and that is
In the Vermilya-Brown case, however, the Court had before it a letter on behalf of the Secretary of State which said:
The State Department speaks authoritatively on the international responsibility of our Government in observing
Our decision in the Vermilya-Brown case in disregard of this weighty concern of the Secretary of State was followed by a petition for rehearing impressively supported by all the actively responsible executive officers of the Government. The State Department reiterated its view that the inclusion of the leased bases among the "possessions" of the United States was "unfortunate" and added that the Department "does not share the assurance of the Court that the house of assembly of Bermuda or other colonial legislatures might not undertake legislation similar to the Fair Labor Standards Act to control labor relations on the bases. It is at least worthy of note in this connection that administrative difficulties have arisen in the bases by reason of the application to contractors' employees of workmen's compensation laws of both the United States and the colonies concerned."
The petition for rehearing also brought to the attention of the Court a letter from the Secretary of the Army which read in part as follows:
The Acting Secretary of the Navy expressed similar views:
If, in the face of these statements by executive officers charged with, and experienced in, the administration of our leased bases, the Court could reach a contrary interpretation of the broad term "possessions," it must be manifest why I could not, were I bound by precedent, join in reading the narrow phrase "every contract made to which the United States . . . is a party" in a way which departed from its literal terms when the only reason for such a departure is reluctance to attribute to Congress an intention to interfere in "labor conditions which are the primary concern of a foreign country."
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
WAGE AND HOUR AND PUBLIC CONTRACTS DIVISIONS
WASHINGTON 25, D.C., December 23, 1948.
DEAR MR. PERLMAN: By letter dated December 22, 1948, you advise that you intend to support a petition
I think it may fairly be said that my predecessors and I, in considering the territorial aspects of wage-hour coverage in the past, have proceeded on the assumption that traditional concepts of sovereign control were implicit in the meaning of the phrase, "any Territory or possession of the United States," as that phrase is used in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In the absence of controlling court decisions, it was necessary for us to interpret the phrase for our guidance in the administration of the Act. In doing so, we not only studied the provisions of other statutes in which these terms were used and authoritative decisions of the courts construing such language in situations which were thought to be comparable, but gave particular weight to authoritative expressions of the State Department and other proper governmental agencies on the question of what areas are viewed as Territories or possessions over which the United States exercises full sovereign rights. On this basis we expressed the opinion in Interpretative Bulletin No. 2, first issued in November, 1938, and in Chapter V,
When the question of the status of the leased bases of the type involved in the Vermilya-Brown case was first brought to our attention in 1942 and 1943, we expressed the view, in the opinions quoted in the Government's brief before the Supreme Court, that these bases were not Territories or possessions of the United States within the meaning of the Act. This view was subsequently modified after it appeared that the matter was being litigated in the courts and consultation with State Department officials indicated that that Department had made no ruling (the letter from that Department which is Appendix A to your brief not having been written at that time). This modification of our position is reflected by the following language which was used to advise inquiries: "Until the question has been settled by court decisions, congressional or executive action, or interpretations issued by the State Department or other proper governmental agencies, the Divisions are not in a position to assert whether the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to employees working at bases leased from the British."
As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in the Vermilya-Brown case, it appears that the status of a given area as a "Territory or possession of the United States" for purposes of the Act is subject to determination on the basis of considerations other than those used by the political departments of the Government, on which we have placed particular reliance in the past. I anticipate that at least two major problems will confront me as a result of the Court's ruling.
Second, even if I should be able to reach sound conclusions as to the application of the Act in these areas, I cannot help but foresee fundamental administrative difficulties in attempting to apply the Act in "possessions" over which the United States does not exercise full sovereign rights, especially where foreign employers and alien labor are involved. Even if such difficulties may not be insuperable, vexing problems of courts with proper jurisdiction and venue to apply the criminal and civil sanctions in such cases are, it seems to me, bound
It has, of course, not been possible for us to explore fully these and other possible problems which might confront us as a result of the Vermilya-Brown decision, in the limited time available to us by reason of the period for filing petitions for rehearing. If the Court should grant a rehearing in the case, I shall be glad to make available to you the results of our further exploration of these questions in order that you may fully apprise the Court of my views concerning the probable effects of the present decision in terms of the over-all administration of the Fair Labor Standards Act.