McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co.
336 U.S. 187 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187 (1949)

McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co.

No. 110

Argued December 14-15, 1948

Decided February 14, 1949

336 U.S. 187

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

A decree of the District Court in a proceeding under the Fair Labor Standards Act enjoined respondents from violating the minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Act. Respondents took no appeal. Three years later, the Administrator instituted a civil contempt proceeding alleging violations of the decree and praying that respondents, in order to purge themselves of contempt, be required to make payment of unpaid statutory wages to the employees affected.

Held:

1. The fact that the violations of the decree were not "willful" does not absolve respondents from liability for civil contempt. P. 336 U. S. 191.

(a) The grant or withholding of relief in a civil contempt proceeding is not wholly discretionary. The private or public rights that the decree sought to protect are an important measure of the remedy. P. 336 U. S. 191.

2. The fact that the unlawful plan or scheme which respondents adopted was not specifically enjoined by the decree does not render them immune from liability in a civil contempt proceeding. Pp. 336 U. S. 191-193.

Page 336 U. S. 188

3. The District Court had power to order respondents, in order to purge their contempt, to pay to the affected employees amounts of wages which were unpaid in violation of the Act. Pp. 336 U. S. 193-195.

(a) Although the decree did not compute the weekly and monthly amount due each employee under the correct construction of the Act, and did not contain the names of the payees, it did provide a formula, couched in terms of the Act, whereby the amounts could readily be ascertained. P. 336 U. S. 194.

(b) It is immaterial that a suit could have been brought by the employees to collect the amounts due; or that, in this proceeding, the Administrator is the complainant and the back wages go to the employees. Pp. 336 U. S. 194-195.

167 F.2d 448, reversed.

The Wage and Hour Administrator instituted in the District Court a civil contempt proceeding against respondents, alleging violations of a decree which enjoined respondents from violating the minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The District Court held that there was no proof of civil contempt, because there was no "willful" violation of the decree, and that it had no power on the application of the Administrator to enforce compliance with its former decree by ordering the payment of unpaid statutory wages. It considered the application of the Administrator as an amended complaint seeking a broadening of the previous decree, and entered such an injunction. 69 F.Supp. 599. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 167 F.2d 448. This Court granted certiorari. 335 U.S. 809. Reversed, p. 336 U. S. 195.

Page 336 U. S. 189

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a civil contempt proceeding arising out of Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co.,317 U. S. 564, which we decided January 18, 1943. The District Court had held that none of respondent's employees in specified classes were covered by Fair Labor Standards Act., 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. We sustained a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals, Fleming v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 128 F.2d 395, which reversed the District Court, modifying it slightly to include a larger class of employees than the United States Court of Appeals had held to be covered.

On remand, the District Court, without a further hearing, entered a decree enjoining respondents from violating the Act in any of the following particulars: (1) by paying the designated classes of employees less than 30

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