Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co.
328 U.S. 680 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946)

Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co.

No. 342

Argued January 29, 1946

Decided June 10, 1946

328 U.S. 680

Syllabus

Respondent produces pottery for interstate commerce. Its employees enter the plant and punch time clocks during a period of 14 minutes before the regular starting time for productive work. They walk from the time clocks to their places of work within the plant, and make various preparations for the start of productive work. After the regular quitting time, they were allowed a 14-minute period to punch out and leave the plant. They were compensated for their time from the next even quarter hour after punching in until the next even quarter hour prior to punching out. Similar provision was made for punching out and in before and after the lunch hour. Thus, an employee might be credited with as much as 56 minutes per day less than the time recorded by the time clocks. Employees brought suit under § 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to recover amounts allegedly owing to them under the overtime provisions of § 7(a) of the Act.

Held:

1. An employee who brings suit under § 16(b) for unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation, together with liquidated damages, has the burden of proving that he performed work for which he was not properly compensated. P. 328 U. S. 686.

2. This burden is met by proof that he has in fact performed work for which he was not properly compensated, and by sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference. P. 328 U. S. 687.

3. The burden then shifts to the employer to come forward with evidence of the precise amount of work performed, or with evidence to negative the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence. P. 328 U. S. 687.

4. If the employer fails to produce such evidence, the court may then award damages to the employee, even though the result be only approximate Pp. 328 U. S. 688, 328 U. S. 693.

5. An employer who has not kept the records required by § 11(c) cannot be heard to complain that damages assessed against him lack the precision of measurement that would be possible had he kept such records. P. 328 U. S. 688.

Page 328 U. S. 681

6. The findings of a special master on the purely factual issue of the amount of actual productive work performed, being supported by substantial evidence and not clearly erroneous, should have been accepted by the District Court, and it erred in rejecting these findings and creating a formula of compensation based on a contrary view. Rule 53(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. P. 689.

7. Since there was no requirement that an employee check in or be on the premises at any particular time during the 14-minute interval, the time clock records could not form the sole basis of determining the statutory workweek. Pp. 328 U. S. 689-690.

8. Time necessarily spent by the employees in walking to work on the employer's premises is working time within the scope of § 7(a), and must be compensated accordingly, regardless of contrary custom or contract. However, application of the de minimis rule is not precluded where the minimum walking time is such as to be negligible. Pp. 328 U. S. 691-692.

9. Time necessarily spent by employees in preliminary activities after arriving at their places of work -- such as putting on aprons and overalls, removing shirts, taping or greasing arms, putting on finger cots, preparing the equipment for productive work, turning on switches for lights and machinery, opening windows, and assembling and sharpening tools -- must be included within the workweek, and compensated accordingly. However, application of the de minimis rule to insubstantial and insignificant periods of time spent in such activities is not precluded. Pp. 328 U. S. 692-693.

10. Unless the employer can provide accurate estimates as to the amount of time spent in such activities in excess of the productive working time, it is the duty of the trier of facts to draw whatever reasonable inferences can be drawn from the employees' evidence. P. 328 U. S. 693.

11. As to waiting time before and after the shift periods, the findings of the special master, that the employees had not proved that they were in fact forced to wait or that they were not free to spend such time on their own behalf, were supported by substantial evidence, and must be sustained. P. 328 U. S. 694.

149 F.2d 461, reversed.

Employees brought suit in the District Court against their employer to recover sums claimed to be due them under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The District Court

Page 328 U. S. 682

gave judgment in favor of the employees. 60 F.Supp. 146. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, and ordered the suit dismissed. 149 F.2d 461. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 706. Reversed and remanded, p. 328 U. S. 694.

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