Petitioner is a clerical employee of an interstate railroad
whose duties consist of filing original tracings of all of the
carrier's rolling stock, equipment and structures, from which
tracings blueprints are made. Without these documents, maintenance
of the carrier's operating system would be impossible. Petitioner
was injured in her office when a cracked window pane blew in upon
Petitioner is within the coverage of the Federal
Employers' Liability Act, as amended in 1939; and the Federal
District Court has jurisdiction of her suit under the Act. Pp.
351 U. S.
(a) The test for coverage under the amended Act is not whether
the employee is engaged in interstate transportation, but whether
what he does in any way furthers or substantially affects
interstate transportation. P. 351 U. S.
(b) The issue in this case cannot be resolved in terms of
whether or not clerical employees as a class are excluded from the
benefits of the Act. Pp. 351 U. S.
(c) Petitioner is employed in interstate commerce within the
meaning of the 1939 amendment to § 1 of the Act. Pp. 351 U. S.
(d) The performance by petitioner of her duties is in
"furtherance" of interstate commerce, and has a close and
substantial effect upon the railroad's interstate activities. P.
351 U. S.
227 F.2d 810 reversed.
Page 351 U. S. 503
MR. JUSTICE MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question we have for decision here is whether petitioner, a
clerical employee of respondent railroad, is within the coverage of
the Federal Employers' Liability Act, § 1, 35 Stat. 65, as amended,
53 Stat. 1404, 45 U.S.C. § 51. Petitioner is employed entirely in
respondent's office building in Philadelphia. Her duties consist of
filing original tracings of all of respondent's engines, cars,
parts, tracks, bridges, and other structures, from which blueprints
of those items are made. There are some 325,000 tracings on file in
the office in which petitioner works. Whenever an order for
blueprints comes in from anywhere in respondent's system, it is
petitioner's responsibility to fill the order by securing the
correct tracings from the files. These she takes to the blueprint
maker in the same office building. After the blueprints are made,
it is petitioner's further duty to return the original tracings to
the appropriate file. About 67% of the blueprints so made are sent
to points outside Pennsylvania. The files which petitioner attends
are the sole depository of the original tracings of the structural
details of all of respondent's rolling stock, trackage, and other
equipment and installations, and, as such, represent a fund of
documents without which maintenance of the operating system would
Petitioner was injured when a cracked window pane in her office
blew in upon her. She brought suit for personal injury under the
Federal Employers' Liability Act. On respondent's motion to
dismiss, the District Court held that petitioner was not within the
coverage of § 1 of the Act and, there being no diversity of
citizenship between the parties, dismissed the complaint for lack
of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 227 F.2d 810.
Page 351 U. S. 504
We granted certiorari because of the importance of the question
presented in the administration of the Act. 350 U.S. 965.
As originally enacted, § 1 provided that every railroad, "while
engaging" in interstate commerce,
"shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while
he is employed by such carrier in such commerce . . . for such
injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence
of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by
reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in
its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works,
boats, wharves, or other equipment."
35 Stat. 65. A further paragraph was added to the section in
1939, and it is clear that two specific problems which the
amendment sought at least to remedy were the results of this
Court's holdings that, at the moment of his injury, the employee as
well as the railroad had to be engaged in interstate commerce in
order to come within the coverage of § 1, and that employees
engaged in construction of new facilities were not covered.
S.Rep.No. 661, 76th Cong., 1st Sess. 2-3; Southern Pacific Co.
decided today, ante,
p. 351 U. S. 493
amendment took the form of an expanded definition of "person . . .
employed" in interstate commerce. The amendment reads:
"Any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such
employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign
commerce, or shall in any way directly or closely and
substantially, affect such commerce as above set forth shall, for
the purposes of this Act, be considered as being employed by such
carrier in such commerce, and shall be considered as entitled to
the benefits of this Act. . . ."
53 Stat. 1404.
Page 351 U. S. 505
No argument is made that Congress could not constitutionally
include petitioner within the coverage of the Act. The argument is
that the amendment was narrowly drawn to remedy specific evils, and
that to construe it to include petitioner would amount to inclusion
in the Act of virtually all railroad employees -- a result which
respondent assumes is unintended and undesirable. The argument
takes several forms. First, it is said that "commerce" in the Act
means only transportation, and that petitioner is not employed in
transportation. See Shanks v. Delaware, L. & W. R.
Co., 239 U. S. 556
239 U. S.
-560. But the interstate commerce in which respondent
is engaged is interstate transportation. If "any part" of
petitioner's duties is in "furtherance" of or substantially affects
interstate commerce, it also is in "furtherance" of or
substantially affects interstate transportation. The test for
coverage under the amendment is not whether the employee is engaged
in transportation, but rather whether what he does in any way
furthers or substantially affects transportation. Nor can we
resolve the issue presented here in terms of whether or not
clerical employees as a class are excluded from the benefits of the
statute. The 1939 amendment was designed to obliterate fine
distinctions as to coverage between employees who, for the purpose
of this remedial legislation, should be treated alike. There is no
meaningful distinction, in terms of whether the employee's duties
are clerical or not, between petitioner and, for illustration, an
assistant chief timekeeper, Straub v. Reading Co.,
F.2d 177, or a messenger boy carrying waybills and grain orders
between separate local offices and freight stations, Bowers v.
Wabash R. Co., 246 S.W.2d
, or a lumber inspector hurt while inspecting ties at a
lumber company, Ericksen v. Southern Pacific
Co., 39 Cal. 2d
, 246 P.2d 642 -- all of whom have been held covered by the
1939 amendment. See also Lillie v. Thompson, 332 U.
. Nor are the benefits of the
Page 351 U. S. 506
Act limited to those exposed to the special hazards of the
railroad industry. The Act has not been so interpreted, and the
1939 amendment specifically affords protection to "any employee"
whose duties bring him within that amendment. There is no basis in
the language of § 1 for confining liability of the railroad so as
to exclude any class of railroad employees as a class. The benefits
of the Act are not limited to those who have cinders in their hair,
soot on their faces, or callouses on their hands. Section 1 cannot
be interpreted to exclude petitioner from its benefits without
further consideration of the function she performs and its impact
on interstate commerce.
We think that the present petitioner is employed by the
respondent in interstate commerce within the meaning of the 1939
amendment to § 1. Although the amendment may have been prompted by
a specific desire to obviate certain court-made rules limiting
coverage, the language used goes far beyond that narrow objective.
It evinces a purpose to expand coverage substantially, as well as
to avoid narrow distinctions in deciding questions of coverage.
Under the amendment, it is the "duties" of the employee that must
further or affect commerce, and it is enough if "any part" of those
duties has the requisite effect. The statute commands us to examine
the purpose and effect of the employee's function in the railroad's
interstate operation, without limitation to nonclerical employees
or determination on the basis of the employee's importance as an
individual in the railroad's organization.
Here, respondent railroad has chosen to arrange its operations
so that repairs and construction anywhere within its system which
require blueprints must go through its Philadelphia office. No such
work can be done without recourse to the files of 325,000 original
tracings in petitioner's custody. Loss or misplacing of those
tracings could promptly cause delay, confusion, or worse in the
day-to-day operation of respondent's lines. If all employees
Page 351 U. S. 507
who perform petitioner's duties were removed from service,
respondent could not conduct its operations without a change in its
organizational system. To recognize this is to attribute to
petitioner neither an exaggerated nor an attenuated relationship to
respondent's transportation system. The filing of tracings and the
dispatch of blueprints taken from them comprise a direct link in
the maintenance of respondent's lines and rolling stock. Together
with the makers of blueprints, petitioner constitutes the means by
which men throughout respondent's system obtain the information
they must have to maintain the railroad's trains, equipment, track,
The very purpose of petitioner's job is to further physical
maintenance of an interstate railroad system. Proper performance of
her duties makes an obvious contribution to the maintenance of that
system. We hold that the petitioner, by the performance of her
duties, is furthering the interstate transportation in which the
respondent is engaged. "The word furtherance' is a
comprehensive term. Its periphery may be vague, but admittedly it
is both large and elastic." Shelton v. Thomson, 148 F.2d
1, 3. Petitioner's duties here come within the confines of that
Similarly, those duties which "in any way directly or closely
and substantially affect" interstate commerce in the railroad
industry must necessarily be marked out through the process of
case-by-case adjudication. This definition and the "furtherance"
definition of employment in interstate commerce in the 1939
amendment are set forth in the disjunctive. In some situations,
they may overlap. Here, we hold that, for the reasons already
given, performance of petitioner's duties has a close and
substantial effect upon the operation of respondent's interstate
activities. Cf. Overstreet v. North Shore Corp.,
318 U. S. 125
Page 351 U. S. 508
Petitioner's duties brought her within the coverage of § 1 as
amended, and the District Court therefore had jurisdiction over
this suit under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The judgment
below is reversed, and the cause remanded to the District Court for
MR. JUSTICE BURTON dissents for the reasons stated below in the
opinion of the Court of Appeals.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, with whom MR. JUSTICE REED and MR.
JUSTICE HARLAN join, dissenting.
Dissenters are not empowered to define the scope of a decision,
but the way they read it may induce dissent. So it is with what the
Court has here written. The opinion does not state in terms that
the Amendment of August 11, 1939, 53 Stat. 1404, to the Federal
Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, 35 Stat. 65, has so
drastically changed the limited scope of that Act to those
employees of an interstate carrier who are, more or less, directly
concerned with its transportation operations as to make it reach
all the employees of such interstate carrier whom Congress in the
exercise of its constitutional power to regulate commerce may
cover. I say the Court does not explicitly hold this, but it does
hold that a clerical employee is covered by the terms of the Act
because a "part" of her duties is in "furtherance" of interstate
commerce. The Court reads the Amendment of 1939 to the Act of 1908
in a merely lexicographical sense. "Furtherance" means anything
that furthers or helps forward; the petitioner was certainly
charged with tasks that furthered or helped to forward the business
of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, a carrier engaged in
interstate commerce; ergo, the petitioner, having been injured
while "employed by such carrier in such commerce,"
Page 351 U. S. 509
has a right of action under the Amendment to the Employers'
Were the Court to be as explicit as this, it would at least not
open the door, as this decision inevitably does, to new litigation.
It is not a juristic requirement that decisions be carried to their
logical consequences. It is equally true that capricious
distinctions should not be made. Yet they are invited when the
rationale of a decision is left, if not cloudy, certainly
unlimited. For myself, I do not see how the clerical employee here
"furthers" the business of the Pennsylvania any more than do all
the other clerical employees of the Pennsylvania, and the thousands
upon thousands of clerical employees on the various railroads
throughout the country, even though there may be differences in
salary and hierarchical importance among such employees.
Accordingly, clerical employees and other obviously
nontransportation employees of railroads will bring suits under the
Federal Employers' Liability Act when recovery thereunder will, by
the law of chance, appear to lawyers advising them to be more
advantageous than awards obtainable under state workmen's
compensation acts. Indeed, if some employees may seek to avail
themselves, for one reason or another, of a state workmen's
compensation act, a carrier may resist, under the doctrine of
New York Central R. Co. v. Winfield, 244 U.
, by urging the exclusiveness of a remedy under
the Federal Employers' Liability Act. Conversely, if suit is
brought under that Act, carriers will doubtless resist, as they
have in the past, on the ground that the particular clerical
employee is not "furthering" its business sufficiently to
constitute "furtherance" as intended by the Court in this case. It
is not a silly exercise in prophecy to foretell that, just as a
mass, if indeed not a mess, of cases came before this Court prior
to the 1939 Amendment, when the Court gave a much too constricted
scope to the Act (see
Page 351 U. S. 510
collected in Frankfurter and Landis, The Business of the Supreme
Court, pp. 207-208), so a new series of sterile litigation will be
stimulated by this decision.
I part company with the Court not in its reading of English, but
in its assumption that the construction of the Amendment to the
Federal Employers' Liability Act is merely a matter of reading
English. The Act of August 11, 1939, is the last in a series of
consistently developing statutes. As such, it is an organism,
projected into the future out of its past. It is not merely a
collection of words for abstract annotation out of the dictionary.
The process of judicial construction must be mindful of the history
of the legislation, of the purpose which infused it, of the
difficulties which were encountered in effectuating this purpose,
of the aims of those most active in relieving these difficulties.
Above all, we should be mindful of the central concern of the body
of enactments that constitute the Federal Employers' Liability Act
throughout all the vicissitudes of the legislation. It would be
redundant to detail these considerations in view of Judge
Goodrich's opinion below. 227 F.2d 810. A few additional
observations are pertinent.
Of course, the Act of 1939 sought to remove hindrances that had
revealed themselves in subjecting carriers to liability for
injuries due to negligence. But the preoccupation of the whole
course of this legislation was with protection to those who were
peculiarly exposed to injuries because of the nature of their
the hazardous business of railroading. A
very important obstacle to recovery was the doctrine of the
assumption of risk as part of the general law of negligence that
was made the basis of the federal right. Congress abolished
assumption of risk as a defense. See Tiller v. Atlantic Coast
Line R. Co., 318 U. S. 54
Another great difficulty derived from this Court's construction of
Page 351 U. S. 511
Clause whereby it confined application of the Federal Employers'
Liability Act to injuries sustained by an employee if, at the
moment of injury, his work was related to interstate
transportation. This mode of approach derived from the
Employers' Liability Cases, 207 U.
, and the Second Employers' Liability
Cases, 223 U. S. 1
produced a series of decisions which led Judge Learned Hand to say
"The cases are full of casuistry. . . ." Central R. Co. of New
Jersey v. Monahan,
11 F.2d 212, 213.
I agree with the Court in finding that the "1939 amendment was
designed to obliterate fine distinctions"; but they were made by
courts only in relation to employees who worked in the context of
the hazardous business of transportation. The amendatory
legislation was addressed to judicial distinctions affecting these
transportation workers that bore no practical relation to the
essential conditions of their employment; these distinctions never
touched others in a totally different category of employment
because the Federal Employers' Liability Act never remotely applied
to them. In order to obliterate such "fine distinctions," it is not
necessary to jump over the moon and wipe out the basic distinction
between those whose duties are tied to transportation, whatever may
have been their precise work at the moment of injury, and those
employees who are exposed by way of permanent occupation to no
greater or different potential hazards than are the thousands upon
thousands of like workers in offices other than those of railroads
whom Congress has left to remedies under state law. It was on the
presupposition of this cardinal distinction between transportation
and nontransportation employees of railroads that the Federal
Employers' Liability Act was amended in 1939. To make it apply to
clerical workers who "further," in a dictionary sense of the term,
Page 351 U. S. 512
commerce business of railroads would have as much justification,
but no more, as it would have for Congress to pass a Federal
Employers' Liability Act for all employees who further large
enterprises in the conduct of their interstate commerce. The whole
course of history of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, as well
as due regard for the text of the Amendment of 1939, in its entire
context, calls for affirmance of the decision below.