1. Boners of meat worked in a slaughterhouse exclusively for the
operator thereof and their work was but one step in a continuous
process the other steps of which were performed by persons who were
admittedly employees of the operator.
in the circumstances of this case, the boners
were employees of the operator of the slaughterhouse within the
meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, even though they worked
under a contract, owned their own tools, and were paid collectively
a certain amount per hundredweight of boned beef, which pay they
divided among themselves. Pp. 331
-726, 331 U. S.
2. Decisions defining the coverage of the employer-employee
relationship under the National Labor Relations Act and the Social
Security Act are persuasive in the consideration of a similar
coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. See Labor Board v.
Hearst Publications, 322 U. S. 111
United States v. Silk, ante
p. 331 U. S. 704
331 U. S.
3. Where the work done, in its essence, follows the usual path
of an employee, putting an "independent contractor" label on the
worker does not deprive him of the protection of the Fair Labor
Standards Act. P. 331 U. S.
4. Determination of the employer-employee relationship within
the contemplation of the Fair Labor Standards Act does not depend
on isolated factors, but rather upon the circumstances of the whole
activity. P. 331 U. S.
156 F.2d 513, conclusion affirmed and direction of judgment
The District Court refused to enjoin alleged violations of the
Fair Labor Standards Act. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.
156 F.2d 513. This Court granted
Page 331 U. S. 723
certiorari. 329 U.S. 704. Conclusion affirmed and direction
of judgment modified,
p. 331 U. S. 731
MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the
Department of Labor brought this action o enjoin t he Rutherford
Food Corporation and the Kaiser Packing Company from further
violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. [Footnote 1
] The Administrator alleged that the
defendants had repeatedly failed to keep proper records and to pay
certain of its employees overtime as required by § 7 of the Act.
] The District Court
refused to grant the injunction. The Circuit Court of Appeals
reversed on appeal, and directed the entry of the judgment
substantially as prayed for. Walling v. Rutherford Food
156 F.2d 513. We brought the case here because of the
importance of the issues presented by the petition for certiorari
to the administration of the Act.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, enacted June 25, 1938, is
a part of the social legislation of the 1930's of the same general
character as the National Labor Relations Act of July 5, 1935, 49
Stat. 449, and the Social Security Act of August 14, 1935, 49 Stat.
620. Decisions that define the coverage of the employer-Employee
relationship under the Labor and Social Security acts are
persuasive in the consideration of a similar coverage under the
Fair Labor Standards Act. See Labor Board v. Hearst
Page 331 U. S. 724
322 U. S. 111
United States v. Silk, ante,
p. 331 U. S. 704
The petitioners are corporations of Missouri authorized to do
business in Kansas. The slaughterhouse of the Kaiser Packing
Company, the place of the alleged violations with which we are
concerned, and the principal place of business of that company, is
in Kansas City, Kansas, from which it ships meat in interstate
commerce. Since 1942, most of its product has been boned beef. The
petitioner, Rutherford Food Corporation, has its principal place of
business and its plant for processing meat products in Kansas City,
Missouri. In 1943, Rutherford bought 51% of the stock of Kaiser in
order to assure itself of a constant supply of boned beef for
contracts it had with the U.S. Army. Kaiser had been operating and
continued to operate at a loss, and Rutherford advanced more than
$50,000 to Kaiser between March, when Rutherford bought the Kaiser
stock, and July, 1943. To assure itself of a continued supply of
meat, Rutherford leased Kaiser's facilities and took over operation
of the slaughterhouse in July. In May, 1944, the lease was
terminated, and Rutherford's stock interest in Kaiser sold, so that
Kaiser might qualify for subsidies granted by the Defense Supplies
Corporation to unaffiliated nonprocessing slaughterers under its
Regulation No. 3. [Footnote
Prior to 1942, Kaiser had one hourly paid employee who acted as
a combined butcher, beef boner and order filler. During 1942, in
order to be able to furnish beef boned to Army specifications to
the Army under contract, Kaiser entered into a written contract
with one Reed, an experienced boner, which provided that Reed
should assemble a group of skilled boners to do the boning at the
slaughterhouse. The terms of the contract were that Reed should be
paid for the work of boning an amount per hundredweight
Page 331 U. S. 725
of boned beef, that he would have complete control over the
other boners, who would be his employees, that Kaiser would furnish
a room in its plant for the work, known as the boning vestibule,
into which the carcasses of cattle slaughtered by Kaiser would be
moved on overhead rails by Kaiser employees, that Kaiser would also
furnish barrels for the boned meat which would be washed and moved
out of the vestibule by Kaiser's employees. Reed abandoned the work
in February, 1943, and the work was taken over under an oral
contract by one of the boners who had worked with him. This boner,
Schindel, also abandoned the work in May, 1944, and an oral
contract was then made by the company with Hooper and Deere, who
had worked with Schindel. After a few months, Deere left, at which
time Hooper entered into a written contract substantially like the
one between Kaiser and Reed, save that it provided for rent to be
paid by Hooper for the boning room, although, as a matter of fact,
no rent was ever paid. The District Court found that, since the
boning work had started in 1942, the money paid by Kaiser had been
shared equally among all the boners, except for a short time after
Hooper took over the work when he paid some of the boners by the
hour. It was stipulated further that the boners owned their own
tools, although these consisted merely of a hook to hold the meat,
a knife to cut it, a sharpener for the knife, and a leather belt
(apron). Although the CIO union which was the representative of the
workers of the company insisted that the boners be members, and
although the written contracts provided that they should join, it
was stipulated that the union dues of the boners were not checked
off, and that the boners were not subject to the authority of the
union steward at the plant.
The slaughterhouse operations, of which the boning is a part,
are carried on in a series of interdependent steps.
Page 331 U. S. 726
The cattle are slaughtered, skinned, and dressed in the killing
room, and the carcasses are moved thence on overhead rails into an
overnight cooler by employees of Kaiser. The next day, they are
moved into another cooler, and then into the boning vestibule, on
the same overhead rail. They move around the boning room on the
rail, each boner cutting off a section for boning. The boneless
meat is put into barrels, or passed to a trimmer, an employee of
Kaiser, who trims waste matter from the boned meat. Waste is put
into other barrels. The barrels are moved from the boning room by
employees of Kaiser into another room, called the dock, where the
meat is weighed and put on trucks. Kaiser has never attempted to
control the hours of the boners, but they must "keep the work
current, and the hours they work depend in large measure upon the
number of cattle slaughtered." 156 F.2d 513, 515. It is undisputed
that the president and manager of Kaiser goes through the boning
vestibule many times a day, and "is after the boners frequently
about their failure to cut all of the meat off the bones."
The Administrator thought these facts brought the boners within
the classification of employees, as that term is used in the Act.
But the District Court thought that they were independent
contractors, and denied the injunction sought by the Administrator.
The Circuit Court of Appeals, however, said:
"The operations at the slaughterhouse constitute an integrated
economic unit devoted primarily to the production of boneless beef.
Practically all of the work entering into the unit is done at one
place and under one roof. . . . The boners work alongside admitted
employees of the plant operator at their tasks. The task of each is
performed in its natural order as a contribution to the
accomplishment of a common objective."
In its view, the test for determining who was an employee under
the Act was not the common law test of
Page 331 U. S. 727
control, "as the Act concerns itself with the correction of
economic evils through remedies which were unknown at common law. .
. ." It concluded that the "underlying economic realities . . .
lead to the conclusion that the boners were and are employees of
Kaiser. . . ." 156 F.2d 513, 516, 517.
The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed by Congress to lessen,
so far as seemed then practicable, the distribution in commerce of
goods produced under subnormal labor conditions. An effort to
eliminate low wages and long hours was the method chosen to free
commerce from the interferences arising from production of goods
under conditions that were detrimental to the health and wellbeing
of workers. It was sought to accomplish this purpose by the minimum
pay and maximum hour provisions and the requirement that records of
employees' services be kept by the employer. [Footnote 4
] To make the method effective, the Act
contains a section granting to the district courts of the United
States jurisdiction to enjoin certain violations of the Act here
involved, relating to the keeping of records of employment and the
paying of overtime. [Footnote
] Whether or not the acts charged in this complaint violate
the Act depends, so far as the meat boners are concerned, upon a
determination as to whether either of both respondents are
employers of the boners. As our conclusion requires further action
in the trial court to frame the injunction, we shall treat only the
question of the relationship of the boners to the alleged
employers. We shall not in our consideration undertake to reach any
conclusion as to the appropriate form of an injunction. We pass
only upon the question whether the boners were
Page 331 U. S. 728
employees of the operator of the Kansas plant under the Fair
Labor Standards Act.
As in the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security
Act, there is in the Fair Labor Standards Act no definition that
solves problems as to the limits of the employer-employee
relationship under the Act. Provisions which have some bearing
appear in the margin. [Footnote
] The definition of "employ" is broad. It evidently derives
from the child labor statutes, and it should be noted that this
definition applies to the child labor provisions of this Act, § 12.
] We have decided
that it is not so broad as to include those "who, without any
express or implied
Page 331 U. S. 729
compensation agreement, might work for their own advantage on
the premises of another." Walling v. Portland Terminal
Co., 330 U. S. 148
the same opinion, however, we pointed out that
"This Act contains its own definitions, comprehensive enough to
require its application to many persons and working relationships
which, prior to this Act, were not deemed to fall within an
330 U. S. 330
148, 330 U. S. 150
We have said that the Act included those who are compensated on a
piece rate basis. United States v. Rosenwasser,
323 U. S. 360
have accepted a stipulation that station "red-caps" were railroad
employees. Williams v. Jacksonville Terminal Co.,
315 U. S. 386
315 U. S. 391
There may be independent contractors who take part in production or
distribution who would alone be responsible for the wages and hours
of their own employees. See United States v. Silk, supra;
compare Roland Electrical Co. v. Walling, 326 U.
; Martino v. Michigan Window Cleaning
Co., 327 U. S. 173
conclude, however, that these meat boners are not independent
contractors. We agree with the Circuit Court of Appeals, quoted
above, in its characterization of their work as a part of the
integrated unit of production under such circumstances that the
workers performing the task were employees of the establishment.
Where the work done, in its essence, follows the usual path of an
employee, putting on an "independent contractor" label does not
take the worker from the protection of the Act. [Footnote 8
The District Court was of the view that:
"The right to contract is not only an inherent right but a
constitutional right, and independent contracts, as a method of
quantity production of
Page 331 U. S. 730
boned beef, have not been uncommon in the packing business
generally. . . . The plan under which boners share equally in the
boning money is commonly employed in Kansas City and elsewhere, and
most of the boners who have worked in the Kaiser plant have worked
at various times and in various plants under independent
contractors. There is nothing inequitable in the sharing method
under which compensation is divided equally among the group. It
gives each man an interest in the amount of work being done by the
other members of the group. It also gives no advantage to the man
who is boning the fleshier parts of the carcass. Under this plan,
beginners and casual boners can be equitably taken care of by
payment on an hourly basis out of the boning money."
We think, however, that the determination of the relationship
does not depend on such isolated factors, but rather upon the
circumstances of the whole activity. Viewed in this way, the
workers did a specialty job on the production line. The
responsibility under the boning contracts without material changes
passed from one boner to another. The premises and equipment of
Kaiser were used for the work. The group had no business
organization that could or did shift as a unit from one
slaughterhouse to another. The managing official of the plant kept
close touch on the operation. While profits to the boners depended
upon the efficiency of their work, it was more like piecework than
an enterprise that actually depended for success upon the
initiative, judgment, or foresight of the typical independent
contractor. Upon the whole, we must conclude that these meat boners
were employees of the slaughtering plant under the Fair Labor
Page 331 U. S. 731
We therefore affirm the conclusion to that effect of the Circuit
Court of Appeals and modify the direction of the judgment of that
court "for the entry of a judgment substantially as prayed," so as
to leave the District Court free to frame its decree in accordance
with this decision.
It is so ordered.
52 Stat. 1060.
29 U.S.C. § 207.
8 F.R. 10826; 8 F.R. 14641; 9 F.R. 1820.
52 Stat. 1060, §§ 2, 6, 7, 11(c). United States v.
Darby, 312 U. S. 100
312 U. S. 125
Overnight Motor Transp. Co. v. Missel, 316 U.
, 316 U. S.
52 Stat. 1060, §§ 17, 15, 7(a), 11(c).
52 Stat. 1060, § 3:
"As used in this Act --"
"* * * *"
"(d) 'Employer' includes any person acting directly or
indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an
employee. . . ."
"(e) 'Employee' includes any individual employed by an employer.
. . ."
"* * * *"
"(g) 'Employ' includes to suffer or permit to work."
Note 11 in the brief for the United States summarizes the
"At the time of the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act,
the phrase 'employed, permitted or suffered to work' was contained
in the child labor statutes of thirty-two States and the District
of Columbia. The same phraseology appeared in the Uniform Child
Labor Laws recommended in 1911 and in 1930 by the National
Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (Child Labor
Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 2, August 1912; Proceedings of the National
Conference, 1930), in the Standard Child Labor Law recommended in
the Child Labor Legislation Handbook compiled by Josephine C.
Goldmark (see e.g.,
issue of 1904, p. 11), and in the
Standards Recommended for Child Labor Legislation by the
International Association of Governmental Labor Officials. The
phrase 'employed or permitted to work' was found in seventeen State
statutes, as well as in the Federal statutes held unconstitutional
in Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U. S. 251
, and Child
Labor Tax Case, 259 U. S. 20
. The statutes are
cited in the Appendix to this brief, infra,
See Walling v. American Needlecrafts,
139 F.2d 60;
United States v. Vogue, Inc.,
145 F.2d 609; Walling v.
158 F.2d 944.