1. The Fair Labor Standards Act is applicable to employees who
are engaged in interstate commerce, but not to those whose
activities merely affect interstate commerce. P. 318 U. S.
2. The Fair Labor Standards Act is applicable to employees (of a
private corporation) who are engaged in the operation and
maintenance of a drawbridge which is part of a toll road used
extensively by persons and vehicles traveling in interstate
commerce, and which spans an intercoastal waterway used in
interstate commerce. P. 318 U. S.
as to one employee who attended to the raising
and lowering of the bridge; another who was engaged in the
maintenance and repair of the bridge, and a third who collected
tolls from users of the road and bridge.
3. The applicability of the Fair Labor Standards Act does not
depend upon the nature of the employer's business, but upon the
character of the employees' activities. P. 318 U. S.
4. That a corporation which owns and operates a toll road and
drawbridge is subject to state taxation does not imply that it is
free from federal regulation, or that its road and drawbridge are
not instrumentalities of interstate commerce. P. 318 U. S.
128 F.2d 450 reversed.
Certiorari, 317 U.S. 606, to review the affirmance of a judgment
(43 F.Supp. 445) dismissing, as to the petitioners here, a
complaint in an action for wages, overtime, and damages under the
Fair Labor Standards Act.
Page 318 U. S. 126
MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is another case in which we must define the scope of the
Fair Labor Standards Act. [Footnote
] 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.
question is whether petitioners who are engaged in maintaining or
operating a toll road and a drawbridge over a navigable waterway
which together constitute a medium for the interstate movement of
goods and persons are "engaged in commerce" within the meaning of
§§ 6 and 7 of the Act. [Footnote
Petitioners, together with others not parties to this petition,
brought this action against respondent and a subsidiary under §
16(b) of the Act for the recovery of unpaid minimum wages, overtime
compensation, and liquidated damages . Respondent moved to dismiss
as to all the plaintiffs, and the motion as to petitioners was
Page 318 U. S. 127
granted by the district court, leave to amend being given to the
other complainants who are not before us. 43 F. Supp. 445.
Petitioners appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which
affirmed the order of dismissal. 128 F.2d 450. The important
question raised as to the coverage of the Act caused us to grant
certiorari. 317 U.S. 606.
The relevant facts alleged in the complaint as amended, which
are to be taken as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, may
be summarized as follows:
Respondent owns and operates a toll road and a drawbridge which
is part of the road. The toll road connects United States Highway
No. 17, an interstate arterial highway, with Fort George Island,
which lies off the northern coast of Florida, being separated from
the mainland by the Intercoastal Waterway. The toll road crosses
the Waterway at Sisters' Creek by means of the drawbridge which
must be raised frequently to permit the passage of boats engaged in
interstate commerce. The toll road constitutes an integral part of
the highway system of the United States, and provides the only
means of land communication between Fort George Island and the
Florida mainland. It is used extensively by persons and vehicles
traveling between the island and points outside Florida in
interstate commerce. Mail to and from other states as well as goods
produced outside Florida and consigned to merchants on the island
are transported over the toll road. Each of the petitioners was
employed by respondent in connection with the operation of the toll
road and drawbridge. Overstreet operated the drawbridge, raising it
for the passage of boats through Sisters' Creek and lowering it for
the resumption of traffic over the road; Brazle was engaged in
maintenance and repair work on the road and the bridge, and Garvin
sold and collected toll tickets from "vehicles using said toll road
in interstate commerce." Petitioners received neither the
Page 318 U. S. 128
minimum wages nor the overtime compensation prescribed by §§ 6
and 7 of the Act.
We think these allegations bring petitioners within the coverage
of the Act, and entitle them to recover if proved.
Our starting point is respondent's concession that no question
of constitutional power is involved, but only the ascertainment of
Congressional intent -- that is, did Congress mean to include
employees such as petitioners within the Act. In arriving at that
intent, it must be remembered that Congress did not choose to exert
its power to the full by regulating industries and occupations
which affect interstate commerce. See Kirschbaum Co. v.
Walling, 316 U. S. 517
316 U. S.
-523; Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co.,
317 U. S. 564
Respondent contends that petitioners are in this category, that
their activities are local, and, at most, only affect commerce. But
the policy of Congressional abnegation with respect to occupations
affecting commerce is no reason for narrowly circumscribing the
phrase "engaged in commerce." We said in the Jacksonville Paper
Co. case, supra,
"It is clear that the purpose of the Act was to extend federal
control in this field throughout the farthest reaches of the
channels of interstate commerce."
And, in determining what constitutes "commerce" or "engaged in
commerce," we are guided by practical considerations.
Jacksonville Paper Co.
case, supra, and see also
Shanks v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 239 U.
, 239 U. S. 558
dealing with what will shortly be pointed out as a similar question
in the coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act.
A practical test of what "engaged in interstate commerce" means
has been evolved in cases arising under the Federal Employers'
Liability Act (45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq.
), which, before the
1939 amendment (see
53 Stat. 1404), applied only where
injury was suffered while the carrier was engaging in interstate or
foreign commerce and
Page 318 U. S. 129
the injured employee was employed by the carrier "in such
commerce." 35 Stat. 65. In determining the reach of that phrase,
the case of Pedersen v. Delaware L. & W. R. Co.,
229 U. S. 146
held that an employee who was injured while carrying bolts to be
used in repairing a railroad bridge over which interstate trains
passed was engaged in interstate commerce within the meaning of the
Liability Act. It was pointed out that tracks and bridges were
indispensable to interstate commerce, and
"that the work of keeping such instrumentalities in a proper
state of repair while thus used is so closely related to such
commerce as to be in practice and in legal contemplation a part of
at p. 229 U. S. 151
See also Philadelphia, B. & W. R. Co. v. Smith,
250 U. S. 101
Southern Ry. Co. v. Puckett, 244 U.
; New York Cent. R. Co. v. Porter,
249 U. S. 168
Kinzell v. Chicago M. & St. P. R. Co., 250 U.
; Southern Pacific Co. v. Industrial Accident
Comm'n, 251 U. S. 259
Philadelphia & Reading Ry. Co. v. Di Dinato,
256 U. S. 327
Rader v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co.,
108 F.2d 980.
Compare Shanks v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co.,
239 U. S. 556
Chicago & North Western Ry. Co. v. Bolle, 284 U. S.
; Chicago & Eastern Illinois R. Co. v.
Commission, 284 U. S. 296
We think that practical test should govern here. [Footnote 3
] Vehicular roads and bridges are
as indispensable to the interstate movement of persons and goods as
railroad tracks and bridges are to interstate transportation by
rail. If they are used by persons and goods passing between the
various States, they are instrumentalities of interstate
Page 318 U. S. 130
commerce. Cf. Convington & Cincinnati Bridge Co. v.
Kentucky, 154 U. S. 204
154 U. S. 218
Those persons who are engaged in maintaining and repairing such
facilities should be considered as "engaged in commerce" even as
was the bolt carrying employee in the Pedersen
because, without their services, these
instrumentalities would not be open to the passage of goods and
persons across state lines. And the same is true of operational
employees whose work is just as closely related to the interstate
movement. Of course, all this is subject to the qualification that
the Act does not consider as an employer the United States or any
State or political subdivision of a State, and hence does not apply
to their employees. § 3(d).
The allegations of petitioners' complaint satisfy this practical
test. The road and bridge allegedly afford passage to an extensive
movement of goods and persons between Florida and other states, and
moreover the drawbridge presents an obstacle to interstate traffic
by water over the Intercoastal Waterway if not properly operated.
The operational and maintenance activities of petitioners are vital
to the proper functioning of these structures as instrumentalities
of interstate commerce. The services of Overstreet are necessary to
prevent the drawbridge from being either a barrier to interstate
navigation or else a gap in the vehicular way. Without the services
of Brazle, the facilities would fall into disrepair, and both
operation and maintenance would seem to depend upon Garvin's
collecting the toll from users of the structures. The work of each
petitioner in providing a means of interstate transportation and
communication is so intimately related to interstate commerce "as
to be in practice and in legal contemplation a part of it"
), and justifies regarding
petitioners as "engaged in commerce" within the meaning of the Fair
Labor Standards Act.
Page 318 U. S. 131
Respondent resists the application of the test of the
and related cases, cited above, pointing out that
there may be pitfalls in translating implications from the special
aspects of one statute to another (see Federal Trade Comm'n v.
Bunte Bros., 312 U. S. 349
312 U. S.
), and claiming that significant differences exist
between the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Fair Labor
Standards Act. The outstanding difference asserted is that a
railroad company is actually engaged in commerce as a carrier of
goods and persons, and, since it is difficult to consider the
business other than as a whole and to separate maintenance from
transportation employees, there is good reason for treating
maintenance employees as engaged in commerce. (Compare
at pp. 229 U. S.
-152.) As regards itself, respondent says that it is
not engaged in commerce, but only in providing facilities which
those carrying on commerce may use, and therefore there is no sound
basis for treating its maintenance and operational employees as
engaged in commerce; rather, they only affect commerce. Reliance is
placed upon Henderson Bridge Company v. Kentucky,
166 U. S. 150
Detroit International Bridge Co. v. Corporation Tax Appeal
Board, 294 U. S. 83
where, in sustaining the power of the States of Kentucky and
Michigan, respectively, to tax the franchise of domestic
corporations operating bridges between Kentucky and Indiana and
between Michigan and Canada, it was said that the respective bridge
companies were not engaged in interstate or foreign commerce. We do
not regard these objections as well taken.
The Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Fair Labor
Standards Act are not strictly analogous, but they are similar.
Both are aimed at protecting commerce from injury through
adjustment of the master-servant relationship, the one by
liberalizing the common law rules pertaining to negligence, and the
other by eliminating substandard working conditions. We see no
Page 318 U. S. 132
why the scope of employed or engaged "in commerce" laid down in
and related cases cited above should not be
applied to the similar language in the Fair Labor Standards Act,
especially when Congress, in adopting the phrase "engaged in
commerce," had those Federal Employers' Liability Act cases brought
to its attention. [Footnote
and Detroit bridge
do not affect our conclusion. We have pointed out
that decisions such as those, dealing with various assertions of
state or federal power in the commerce field, are not particularly
helpful in determining the scope of the Act. Kirschbaum Co. v.
pp. 316 U. S.
-521; Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co.,
But even if we accept the premise of the
cases and regard respondent as not engaged in
commerce, the result is not changed. The nature of the employer's
business is not determinative, because, as we have repeatedly said,
the application of the Act depends upon the character of the
employees' activities. Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, supra,
p. 316 U. S. 524
Warren-Bradshaw Drilling Co. v. Hall, 317 U. S.
; Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., supra.
The fact that respondent may be subject to state taxation does not
imply that it is free from federal regulation or that its road and
drawbridge are not instrumentalities of interstate commerce.
Petitioners, who are engaged in operating and maintaining
respondent's facilities so that there may be interstate passage of
persons and goods over them, are so closely related to that
interstate movement, as a practical matter, that we think they must
be regarded, under the allegations of their complaint, as "engaged
in commerce" within the meaning of §§ 6 and 7 of the Act.
Page 318 U. S. 133
We conclude that petitioners' complaint was erroneously
dismissed. Accordingly, the judgment below is reversed, and the
cause remanded to the district court for further proceedings in
conformity with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS and MR. JUSTICE JACKSON dissent.
Compare Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, 316 U.
; Warren-Bradshaw Drilling Co. v. Hall,
317 U. S. 88
Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.
; Higgins v. Carr Brothers, 317 U.
Section 3(b) defines "commerce" as "trade, commerce,
transportation, transmission, or communication among the several
States or from any State to any place outside thereof."
This has been the administrative interpretation. See
Interpretative Bulletin No. 5 of the Wage and Hour Division of the
Department of Labor, issued in November, 1939 at p. 7. This is set
forth in the 1941 Edition of the Wage and Hour Manual at p. 34.
the dissenting opinion in Pedersen v.
Fitzgerald Construction Co.,
262 App.Div. 665, 668, 30
N.Y.S.2d 989, affirmed without opinion,
288 N.Y. 687, 43
83 Cong.Rec. 75th Cong., 3d Sess., Pt. 7, p. 7434,
and Pt. 8, pp. 9168-71. See also
Joint Hearings before the
Senate Committee on Education and Labor and the House Committee on
Labor on S. 2475 and H.R. 7200, 75th Cong., 1st Sess. (1937), Pt.
1, pp. 42, 43.