Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc.,
464 U.S. 408 (1984)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc., 464 U.S. 408 (1984)

Donovan v. Lone Steer, Inc.

No. 82-1684

Argued November 29, 1983

Decided January 17, 1984

464 U.S. 408


The Secretary of Labor (Secretary) is authorized by § 11(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to investigate and gather data regarding wages, hours, and other conditions of employment to determine whether an employer is violating the Act, and by § 9 to subpoena witnesses and documentary evidence relating to any matter under investigation. Pursuant to these provisions, a Department of Labor official, upon entering appellee motel and restaurant, served an administrative subpoena duces tecum on one of appellee's employees, directing the employee to appear at the regional Wage and Hour Office with certain payroll and sales records. Appellee refused to comply with the subpoena and sought declaratory and injunctive relief in Federal District Court, claiming that the subpoena constituted an unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The District Court held that, although the Secretary had complied with the applicable FLSA provisions in issuing the subpoena, enforcement of the subpoena would violate the Fourth Amendment because the Secretary had not previously obtained a judicial warrant.

Held: The subpoena duces tecum did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Oklahoma Press Publishing Co. v. Walling, 327 U. S. 186, controlling. An entry into the public lobby of a motel and restaurant for the purpose of serving an administrative subpoena is not the sort of governmental act that is forbidden by that Amendment. Here, the subpoena itself did not authorize either entry or inspection of appellee's premises, but merely directed appellee to produce certain wage and hour records, and no nonconsensual entry into areas not open to the public was made. Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U. S. 307, and Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U. S. 523, distinguished. While a subpoenaed employer, in an action in federal district court, may question the reasonableness of a subpoena before suffering any penalties for refusing to comply with it, the available defenses do not include the right to insist upon a judicial warrant as a condition precedent to a valid subpoena. Pp. 464 U. S. 413-416.


REHNQUIST J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 464 U. S. 409

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.