United States v. Darby,
312 U.S. 100 (1941)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941)

United States v. Darby

No. 82

Argued December 19, 20, 1940

Decided February 3, 1941

312 U.S. 100


1. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provides for fixing minimum wages and maximum hours for employees engaged in the production of goods for interstate commerce, with increased compensation for overtime, and forbids, under pain of fine and imprisonment: (1) violation by an employer of such wage and hour provisions; (2) shipment by him in interstate commerce of any goods in the production of which any employee was employed in violation of such provisions, and (3) failure of the employer to keep such records of his employees and of their wages and hours, as shall be prescribed by administrative regulation or order. Held within the commerce power and consistent with the Fifth and Tenth Amendments. P. 312 U. S. 111.

2. While manufacture is not of itself interstate commerce, the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is such commerce, and the prohibition of such shipment by Congress is a regulation of interstate commerce. P. 312 U. S. 113.

3. Congress, following its own conception of public policy concerning the restrictions which may appropriately be imposed on interstate commerce, is free to exclude from it articles whose use in the State for which they are destined it may conceive to be injurious to the public health, morals or welfare, even though the State has not sought to regulate their use. P. 312 U. S. 114.

4. Such regulation is not a forbidden invasion of state power merely because either its motive or its consequence is to restrict the use of articles of commerce within the States of destination, and is valid unless prohibited by other Constitutional provisions. P. 312 U. S. 114.

5. The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the Congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the States from and to which it flows. P. 312 U. S. 115.

6. The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction, and over which the courts are given no control. P. 312 U. S. 115.

Page 312 U. S. 101

7. In prohibiting interstate shipment of goods produced under the forbidden substandard labor conditions, the Act is within the authority of Congress, if no Constitutional provision forbids. P. 312 U. S. 115.

8. Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U. S. 251, overruled; Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U. S. 238, declared to have been limited. Pp. 312 U. S. 115, 312 U. S. 123.

9. The "production for interstate commerce" intended by the Act includes, at least, production of goods, which, at the time of production, the employer, according to the normal course of his business, intends or expects to move in interstate commerce although, through the exigencies of the business, all of the goods may not thereafter actually enter interstate commerce. P. 312 U. S. 117.

10. The power of Congress over interstate commerce extends to those intrastate activities which so affect interstate commerce or the exercise of the power of Congress over it as to make their regulation an appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end -- the exercise of the granted power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. P. 312 U. S. 118.

11. Congress, having by the present Act adopted the policy of excluding from interstate commerce all goods produced for that commerce which do not conform to the specified labor standards, it may choose the means reasonably adapted to the attainment of the permitted end, even though they involve control of intrastate activities. P. 312 U. S. 121.

12. Independently of the prohibition of shipment or transportation of the proscribed goods, the provision of the Act for the suppression of their production for interstate commerce is within the commerce power. P. 312 U. S. 122.

13. The Tenth Amendment is not a limitation upon the authority of the National Government to resort to all means for the exercise of a granted power which are appropriate and plainly adapted to the permitted end. P. 312 U. S. 123.

14. The requirements of the Act as to the keeping of records are valid as incidental to the wage and hour requirements. P. 312 U. S. 124.

15. The wage and hour provisions of the Act do not violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. P. 312 U. S. 125.

16. In its criminal aspect, the Act is sufficiently definite to meet constitutional demands. P. 312 U. S. 125.

32 F.Supp. 734, reversed.

APPEAL, under the Criminal Appeals Act, from a judgment quashing an indictment.

Page 312 U. S. 108

Primary Holding

The Fair Labor Standards Act is constitutional because it relates to the federal government’s power to regular interstate commerce and provides uniform labor standards across the states.


When a lumber manufacturer, Darby, shipped lumber out of state, he was arrested for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under this law, Congress had used its authority under the Commerce Clause to set a minimum wage and maximum hours for all workers involved in interstate commerce. Darby thus faced potential imprisonment as well as fines for having shipped products out of the state while failiing to comply with FLSA. However, his charges were dismissed because the federal district court found that FLSA was unconstitutional. The court noted its potential effects on intrastate activities, which it found impermissible under the Commerce Clause.



  • Harlan Fiske Stone (Author)
  • Charles Evans Hughes
  • James Clark McReynolds
  • Owen Josephus Roberts
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • Felix Frankfurter
  • William Orville Douglas
  • Frank Murphy

In an unanimous opinion, the Court found that the distinction between manufacturing goods and engaging in interstate commerce was no longer useful, since most companies produce their goods without considering where they may travel. Moreover, Congress was justifying in seeking to prevent a race to the bottom among states, which might attempt to produce goods as cheaply as possible by exploiting workers. This practice likely would have an effect on interstate commerce, so Congress could regulate it under the Commerce Clause. Moreover, the record-keeping requirements and potential penalties imposed by the Act were not arbitrary or irrational.

Case Commentary

The substantial effect standard used in this case considers the impact that a local economic activity can have on interstate commerce. It shows how broadly the Court construed Congressional powers under the Commerce Clause during the New Deal era. This decision echoed the ruling in United States v. Darby, in which the Court left behind any distinctions between direct and indirect effects on commerce but instead concerned the scale and likelihood of the effect.

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