JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue in this case is whether an employee may bring an action in federal district court, alleging a violation of
Petitioner truckdrivers are employed at the Little Rock terminal of respondent Arkansas-Best Freight Systems, Inc., an interstate motor carrier of freight. In accordance with federal regulations and Arkansas-Best's employment practices, petitioners are required to conduct a safety inspection of their trucks before commencing any trip, and to transport any truck failing such inspection to Arkansas-Best's on-premises repair facility. See 49 CFR §§ 392.7, 392.8 (1980). Petitioners are not compensated by their employer for the time spent complying with these requirements.
Pursuant to the collective-bargaining agreement between Arkansas-Best and petitioners' union, respondent Local 878 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers, petitioner Barrentine and another driver filed a series of grievances against Arkansas-Best.
In March 1977, petitioners filed this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The District Court addressed only the fair representation claim. While it conceded that "the evidence seems . . . rather to predominate in favor of the finding that there was a side agreement" as petitioners alleged, it found that the existence of such an agreement did not in itself give rise to a breach of the union's duty of fair representation, because the labor laws permit "parties by their own actions . . . [to] fill in the gaps that always arise with a written instrument when you apply that instrument to a multiplicity of situations and practices." App. to Pet. for Cert. 8a, 9a. This ruling
With one judge dissenting, the Court of Appeals also held that the District Court was correct in not addressing the merits of petitioners' FLSA claim. Emphasizing that national labor policy encourages arbitration of labor disputes, the court stated that "wage disputes arising under the FLSA . . . may be the subject of binding arbitration where the collective bargaining agreement so provides . . . at least in situations in which employees knowingly and voluntarily submit their grievances to arbitration under the terms of the agreement." Id., at 1199. Finding that petitioners had voluntarily submitted their grievances to arbitration, the court concluded that they were barred from asserting their statutory wage claim in the subsequently filed federal-court action. Id., at 1199-1200. We granted certiorari, 449 U.S. 819 (1980), and reverse.
Two aspects of national labor policy are in tension in this case. The first, reflected in statutes governing relationships between employers and unions, encourages the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment through the collective-bargaining process. The second, reflected in statutes governing relationships between employers and their individual employees, guarantees covered employees specific substantive rights. A tension arises between these policies when
The national policy favoring collective bargaining and industrial self-government was first expressed in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, 29 U. S. C. § 151 et seq. (the Wagner Act). It received further expression and definition in the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 29 U. S. C. § 141 et seq. (the Taft-Hartley Act). Predicated on the assumption that individual workers have little, if any, bargaining power, and that "by pooling their economic strength and acting through a labor organization freely chosen by the majority, the employees of an appropriate unit have the most effective means of bargaining for improvements in wages, hours, and working conditions," NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, 180 (1967), these statutes reflect Congress' determination that to improve the economic well-being of workers, and thus to promote industrial peace, the interests of some employees in a bargaining unit may have to be subordinated to the collective interests of a majority of their co-workers. See Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 182 (1967); 29 U. S. C. § 159 (a). The rights established through this system of majority rule are thus
To further this policy. Congress has declared that
Respondents contend that the aspect of national labor policy encouraging collective bargaining and industrial self-government requires affirmance of the Court of Appeals. They note that the collective-bargaining agreement between Arkansas-Best and petitioners' union requires that "any controversy" between the parties to the agreement be resolved through the binding contractual grievance procedures. See n. 5, supra. They further note that Local 878 processed petitioners' grievances in accordance with those procedures, and that the District Court made an unchallenged finding that the union did not breach its duty of fair representation in doing so. Accordingly, they conclude that petitioners should be barred from bringing the statutory component of their wage claim in federal court.
These considerations were the basis for our decision in Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974). In that case, petitioner, a black employee, had been discharged by respondent employer, allegedly for producing too many defective parts. Claiming that his discharge was racially motivated, petitioner asked his union to pursue the grievance and arbitration procedure set forth in the collective-bargaining agreement. The union did so, relying on the nondiscrimination clause in the collective-bargaining agreement, but the arbitrator found that petitioner had been discharged for just cause. Petitioner then brought an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Federal District Court based on the same facts that were before the arbitrator. The District Court granted summary judgment for the employer, holding that petitioner was bound by the prior adverse arbitral decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
This Court reversed, concluding that an employee's statutory right to a trial de novo under Title VII is not foreclosed by the prior submission of his discrimination claim to final arbitration under a collective-bargaining agreement. The Court found that in enacting Title VII. Congress had granted individual employees a nonwaivable, public law right to
Respondents would distinguish Gardner-Denver on the ground that because petitioners' FLSA claim is based on a dispute over wages and hours, subjects at the heart of the collective-bargaining process, their claim is particularly well suited to resolution through collectively bargained grievance and arbitration procedures. But this contention misperceives the nature of petitioners' FLSA claim.
This Court's decisions interpreting the FLSA have frequently emphasized the nonwaivable nature of an individual employee's right to a minimum wage and to overtime pay under the Act. Thus, we have held that FLSA rights cannot be abridged by contract or otherwise waived because this would "nullify the purposes" of the statute and thwart the legislative policies it was designed to effectuate. Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 707 (1945); see D. A. Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi, 328 U.S. 108, 114-116 (1946); Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc., 323 U.S. 37, 42 (1944); Overnight Motor Transportation Co. v. Missel, supra, at 577; see 29 CFR § 785.8 (1974).
Because the arbitrator is required to effectuate the intent of the parties, rather than to enforce the statute, he may issue a ruling that is inimical to the public policies underlying the FLSA, thus depriving an employee of protected statutory rights.
Finally, not only are arbitral procedures less protective of individual statutory rights than are judicial procedures, see
In sum, the FLSA rights petitioners seek to assert in this action are independent of the collective-bargaining process. They devolve on petitioners as individual workers, not as members of a collective organization. They are not waivable. Because Congress intended to give individual employees the right to bring their minimum-wage claims under the FLSA in court, and because these congressionally granted FLSA rights are best protected in a judicial rather than in an arbitral forum, we hold that petitioners' claim is not barred by the prior submission of their grievances to the contractual dispute-resolution procedures. As we stated in Gardner-Denver:
CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, with whom JUSTICE REHNQUIST joins, dissenting.
The Court today moves—rather blithely, so it seems to me, and unnecessarily—in a direction counter to the needs and interests of workers and employers and contrary to the interests of the judicial system. It does so on the theory that this result advances congressional policy, but careful analysis reveals that Congress, if anything, has mandated the contrary. With funds appropriated by Congress, the Executive Branch, through the Department of Justice, and the Judicial Branch have undertaken studies and pilot programs to remove just such routine and relatively modest-sized claims as this from the courts. Today, the Court moves in precisely the opposite direction, ignoring the objectives of Congress, the agreement of the parties, and the common sense of the situation. It moves toward making federal courts small claims courts contrary to the constitutional concept of these courts as having special and limited jurisdiction.
I agree, of course, that the congressionally created right of individual workers to a minimum wage under § 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U. S. C. § 206, may not be waived through a collective-bargaining agreement between an employer and the worker's union or through a direct agreement between an individual worker and the employer. Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 707 (1945). I also agree that the Act creates a private cause of action to vindicate the right to a minimum wage. Fair Labor Standards Act § 16, 29 U. S. C. § 216. But it is a different—indeed, a totally different—proposition to say that employees and employers may not agree to a means of enforcing the employees'
Unfortunately, neither the parties nor the United States as amicus curiae can point to a clear answer to this question in the legislative history of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is hornbook law, however, that there is a strong congressional policy favoring grievance procedures and arbitration as a method of resolving labor disputes. See Labor Management Relations Act, §§ 201 (b), 203 (d), 29 U. S. C. §§ 171 (b), 173 (d); Norris-LaGuardia Act, § 8, 29 U. S. C. § 108. This Court has acknowledged that policy in the past. See, e. g., Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 578, and n. 4 (1960); Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 596 (1960); Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 458-459 (1957). The Court today pays lipservice to that congressional policy, ante, at 734-736, but then—paradoxically—ignores it.
The reasons for favoring arbitration are as wise as they are obvious: litigation is costly and time consuming, and, more to the point in this case, judges are less adapted to the nuances of the disputes that typically arise in shops and factories than shop stewards, business agents, managerial supervisors, and the traditional ad hoc panels of factfinders. See, e. g., Steelworkers
The policy of favoring extrajudicial methods of resolving disputes is reflected in other areas as well. With federal courts flooded by litigation increasing in volume, in length, and in a variety of novel forms,
By rejecting binding arbitration for resolution of this relatively simple wage claim arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Court thereby rejects as well a policy Congress has followed for at least half a century throughout the field of labor relations and now being applied in other areas as well. To reach that strange result, the Court relies on our holding in Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974). But that case in no sense compels today's holding. The congressionally created right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq., was aimed at guaranteeing a workplace free from discrimination, racial and otherwise. That fundamental right is not and should not be subject to waiver by a collective-bargaining agreement negotiated by a union. But there obviously is a vast difference between resolving allegations of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act and settling a relatively typical and simple wage dispute such as we have here when the parties have expressly agreed to resolve such grievances by arbitration.
The long history of union discrimination against minorities
Even beyond the historical fact of union discrimination, we observed in Gardner-Denver that arbitrators are not likely to have the needed experience to deal with the special issues arising under the Civil Rights Act, a statute "whose broad language frequently can be given meaning only by reference to public law concepts." 415 U. S., at 57. Leaving resolution of discrimination claims to persons unfamiliar with the congressional policies behind that statute could have undermined enforcement of fundamental rights Congress intended to protect. But the "tension" seen by the Court in Gardner-Denver, ante, at 734, is simply not present here.
A dispute over wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act arises in an entirely different historical and legal context. In that setting, the union and the employee are the traditional allies, united in enforcing wage claims of employees individually as well as collectively. The Court distorts the possibility that union leadership might fail to protect members' interests in a wage dispute. Ante, at 742. If this rare exception arose, protection of the employee is abundantly
Despite the Court's contrary view, ante, at 743-744, whether the time spent in the driver's inspection of a vehicle before taking to the road, as required by federal law, and in transportation of the vehicle to a repair facility when necessary constituted "compensable time" under "Federal Wage Laws," App. 21 (petitioner Barrentine's grievance), is a factual question well suited for disposition by grievance processes and arbitration. The following factors are relevant:
This elementary wage dispute falls well within the scope of traditional arbitration as it exists under countless collective-bargaining agreements, which the Court now channels into the federal courts. For years the labor movement has developed panels of persons acceptable to both sides who are
Allowing one party to such an elementary industrial dispute unilaterally to resort to the federal courts when an established, simplified, less costly procedure is available—and desired, as here, by the employer and the employee's union— can only increase costs and consume judicial time unnecessarily. It makes neither good sense nor sound law to read the broad language of Gardner-Denver—written in a civil rights discrimination case—to govern a routine wage dispute over a matter traditionally entrusted by the parties' arm's-length bargaining to binding arbitration.
The Court seems unaware that people's patience with the judicial process is wearing thin. Its holding runs counter to every study and every exhortation of the Judiciary, the Executive, and the Congress urging the establishment of reasonable mechanisms to keep matters of this kind out of the courts. See The Pound Conference: Perspectives on Justice in the Future passim (West Pub. Co. 1979); American Bar Assn., Report on the National Conference on Minor Disputes Resolution passim (1978). The Federal Government, as I noted earlier, has spent millions of dollars in pilot programs experimenting in extrajudicial procedures for simpler mechanisms to resolve disputes. Approving an extrajudicial resolution procedure "is not a question of first-class or second-class . . . means. It is a matter of tailoring the means to the problem that is involved." Resolution of Minor Disputes, Joint Hearings before the Subcommittee on Courts,
"All employees covered by this Agreement shall be paid for all time spent in the service of the Employer. Rates of pay provided for by this Agreement shall be minimums. Time shall be computed from the time that the employee is ordered to report for work and registers in and until the time he is effectively released from duty. Such payment for employee's time when not driving shall be the hourly rate." App. 27.
"The Unions and the employers agree that there shall be no strikes, lockouts, tieups, or legal proceedings without first using all possible means of settlement as provided for in this Agreement and in the National Agreement, if applicable, of any controversy which might arise. Disputes shall first be taken up between the Employer and the Local Union involved. Failing adjustment by these parties, the following procedure shall then apply:
"(a) Where a State or Multiple State Committee, by a majority vote, settles a dispute no appeal may be taken to the Southern Conference Area Grievance Committee. Such decision will be final and binding on both parties." App. 24-25.
"Every employer shall pay to each of his employees who in any work-week is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, . . . wages at the following rates: . . ."
Alternatively, they relied upon § 4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 amendments to the FLSA, 61 Stat. 86, 29 U. S. C. § 254, which provides:
"(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, no employer shall be subject to any liability or punishment under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, . . . on account of the failure of such employer to pay an employee minimum wages, . . . for or on account of any of the following activities. . . .
"(1) walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform, and
"(2) activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities, which occur . . . prior to the time on any particular workday at which such employee commences . . . such principal activity or activities.
"(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section which relieve an employer from liability and punishment with respect to an activity, the employer shall not be so relieved if such activity is compensable by either—
"(1) an express provision of a written or nonwritten contract in effect, at the time of such activity, between such employee, his agent, or collective-bargaining representative and his employer; or
"(2) a custom or practice in effect, at the time of such activity, at the establishment or other place where such employee is employed, covering such activity, not inconsistent with a written or nonwritten contract, in effect at the time of such activity, between such employee, his agent, or collective-bargaining representative and his employer."
See App. 3-7.
"Any employer who violates the [minimum wage] provisions . . . of this title shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, . . . and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages. . . . The court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action."
"No employee shall be a party plaintiff to any [FLSA enforcement action] unless he gives his consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which such action is brought."
Even if this requirement were to apply to petitioners' suit, a nonclass action, it was satisfied when petitioners individually signed at least two sets of interrogatories.
The threshold question in this action, then, is whether petitioners were engaged in "activities which are preliminary to [their] principal activity," 29 U. S. C. § 254 (a) (2), when they conducted the pretrip safety inspections of their vehicles. Resolution of that question requires inquiry into whether the inspection and transportation procedures "are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which [petitioners] are employed." Steiner v. Mitchell, supra, at 256 (changing clothes and showering are "principal" activities of employees working with dangerously caustic and toxic materials); see Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U.S. 260, 263 (1956) (knife sharpening is "principal" activity of butchers in meat packing plant); 29 CFR §§ 790.7, 790.8 (1980). For the reasons that follow, we conclude that this is a question of statutory construction that must be resolved by the courts.
"[w]e adopt no standards as to the weight to be accorded an arbitral decision, since this must be determined in the court's discretion with regard to the facts and circumstances of each case. Relevant factors include the existence of provisions in the collective bargaining agreement that conform substantially with [the statute], the degree of procedural fairness in the arbitral forum, adequacy of the record with respect to the issue of discrimination, and the special competence of particular arbitrators. Where an arbitral determination gives full consideration to an employee's [statutory] rights, a court may properly accord it great weight. This is especially true where the issue is solely one of fact, specifically addressed by the parties and decided by the arbitrator on the basis of an adequate record. . . ." 415 U. S., at 60, n. 21.
See also n. 19, supra.