IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21 (2005)
OCTOBER TERM, 2005
IBP, INC. V. ALVAREZ
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
IBP, INC. v. ALVAREZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 03–1238. Argued October 3, 2005—Decided November 8, 2005
After this Court ruled that the term “workweek” in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) included the time employees spent walking from time clocks near a factory entrance to their workstations, Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U. S. 680, 691–692, Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, which, inter alia, excepted from FLSA coverage walking on the employer’s premises to and from the location of the employee’s “principal activity or activities,” §4(a)(1), and activities that are “preliminary or postliminary” to “said principal activity or activities,” §4(a)(2). The Act did not otherwise change this Court’s descriptions of “work” and “workweek” or define “workday.” Regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Labor shortly thereafter concluded that the Act did not affect the computation of hours within a “workday,” 29 CFR §790.6(a), which includes “the period between the commencement and completion” of the “principal activity or activities,” §790.6(b). Eight years after the enactment of the Portal-to-Portal Act and these interpretative regulations, the Court explained that the “term ‘principal activity or activities’ … embraces all activities which are ‘an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities,’ ” including the donning and doffing of specialized protective gear “before or after the regular work shift, on or off the production line.” Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U. S. 247, 256.
In No. 03–1238, respondent employees filed a class action seeking compensation for time spent donning and doffing required protective gear and walking from the locker rooms to the production floor of a meat processing facility owned by petitioner IBP, Inc. (IBP), and back. The District Court found the activities compensable, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. In No. 04–66, petitioner employees sought compensation for time spent donning and doffing required protective gear at a poultry processing plant operated by respondent Barber Foods, Inc. (Barber), as well as the attendant walking and waiting times. Barber prevailed on the walking and waiting claims. On appeal, the First Circuit found those times preliminary and postliminary activities excluded from FLSA coverage by §§4(a)(1) and (2) of the Portal-to-Portal Act.
1. The time respondents in No. 03–1238 spend walking between changing and production areas is compensable under the FLSA. Pp. 7–15.
(a) Section 4(a)(1)’s text does not exclude such time from the FLSA’s scope. IBP claims that, because donning is not the “principal activity” that starts the workday, walking occurring immediately after donning and immediately before doffing is not compensable. That argument, which in effect asks for a third category of activities—those that are “integral and indispensable” to a “principal activity” and thus not excluded from coverage by §4(a)(2), but are not themselves “principal activities” as defined by §4(a)(1)—is foreclosed by Steiner, which made clear that §4 does not remove activities that are “integral and indispensable” to “principal activities” from FLSA coverage precisely because such activities are themselves “principal activities.” 350 U. S., at 253. There is no plausible argument that these terms mean different things in §4(a)(2) and in §4(a)(1). Under the normal rule of statutory interpretation, identical words used in different parts of the same statute are generally presumed to have the same meaning; and in §4(a)(2)’s reference to “said principal activity or activities,” “said” is an explicit reference to the use of the identical term in §4(a)(1). Pp. 10–12.
(b) Also unpersuasive is IBP’s argument that Congress’ repudiation of the Anderson holding reflects a purpose to exclude the walking time at issue. That time, which occurs after the workday begins and before it ends, is more comparable to time spent walking between two different positions on an assembly line than to the walking in Anderson, which occurred before the workday began. Pp. 12–13.
(c) The relevant regulations also support this view of walking. Contrary to IBP’s claim, 29 CFR §790.6 does not strictly define the workday’s limits as the period from “whistle to whistle.” And §790.7(g), n. 49, which provides that postdonning walking time is not “necessarily” excluded from §4(a)(1)’s scope, does not mean that such time is always excluded and is insufficient to overcome clear statements in the regulations’ text that support the holding here. Pp. 13–15.
2. Because donning and doffing gear that is “integral and indispensable” to employees’ work is a “principal activity” under the statute, the continuous workday rule mandates that the time the No. 04–66 petitioners spend walking to and from the production floor after donning and before doffing, as well as the time spent waiting to doff, are not affected by the Portal-to-Portal Act, and are instead covered by the FLSA. Pp. 15–17.
3. However, §4(a)(2) excludes from the FLSA’s scope the time employees spend waiting to don the first piece of gear that marks the beginning of the continuous workday. Such waiting—which is two steps removed from the productive activity on the assembly line—comfortably qualifies as a “preliminary” activity. The fact that certain preshift activities are necessary for employees to engage in their principal activities does not mean that those preshift activities are “integral and indispensable” to a “principal activity” under Steiner. No limiting principle allows this Court to conclude that the waiting time here is such an activity without also leading to the logical (but untenable) conclusion that the walking time in Anderson would also be a “principal activity” unaffected by the Portal-to-Portal Act. Title 29 CFR §790.7(h) does not support a contrary view. Pp. 17–19.
No. 03–1238, 339 F. 3d 894, affirmed; No. 04–66, 360 F. 3d 274, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Stevens, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Together with No. 04–66, Tum et al. v. Barber Foods, Inc., dba Barber Foods, on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
OPINION OF THE COURT
IBP, INC. V. ALVAREZ
546 U. S. ____ (2005)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
NOS. 03-1238 AND 04-66
IBP, INC., PETITIONER 03–1238 v. GABRIEL ALVAREZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, et al. on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit ABDELA TUM, et al., PETITIONERS 04–66 v. BARBER FOODS, INC., dba BARBER FOODS on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the first circuit [November 8, 2005] Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court. These consolidated cases raise questions concerning the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, with respect to activities of employees who must don protective clothing on the employer’s premises before they engage in the productive labor for which they are primarily hired. The principal question, which is presented in both cases, is whether the time employees spend walking between the changing area and the production area is compensable under the FLSA. The second question, which is presented only in No. 04–66, is whether the time employees spend waiting to put on the protective gear is compensable under the statute. In No. 03–1238, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit answered “yes” to the first question, 339 F. 3d 894 (2003); in No. 04–66, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit answered “no” to both questions, 360 F. 3d 274, 281 (2004). We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict. 543 U. S. ___ (2005). I As enacted in 1938, the FLSA, 29 U. S. C. §201 et seq., required employers engaged in the production of goods for commerce to pay their employees a minimum wage of “not less than 25 cents an hour,” §6(a)(1), 52 Stat. 1062, and prohibited the employment of any person for workweeks in excess of 40 hours after the second year following the legislation “unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of  hours … at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed,” id., §7(a)(3), at 1063. Neither “work” nor “workweek” is defined in the statute.[Footnote 1] Our early cases defined those terms broadly. In Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U. S. 590 (1944), we held that time spent traveling from iron ore mine portals to underground working areas was compensable; relying on the remedial purposes of the statute and Webster’s Dictionary, we described “work or employment” as “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.” Id., at 598; see id., at 598, n. 11. The same year, in Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U. S. 126 (1944), we clarified that “exertion” was not in fact necessary for an activity to constitute “work” under the FLSA. We pointed out that “an employer, if he chooses, may hire a man to do nothing, or to do nothing but wait for something to happen.” Id., at 133. Two years later, in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U. S. 680 (1946), we defined “the statutory workweek” to “include all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace.” Id., at 690–691. Accordingly, we held that the time necessarily spent by employees walking from time clocks near the factory entrance gate to their workstations must be treated as part of the workweek. Id., at 691–692. The year after our decision in Anderson, Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act, amending certain provisions of the FLSA. Based on findings that judicial interpretations of the FLSA had superseded “long-established customs, practices, and contracts between employers and employees, thereby creating wholly unexpected liabilities, immense in amount and retroactive in operation,” 61 Stat. 84, it responded with two statutory remedies, the first relating to “existing claims,” id., at 85–86, and the second to “future claims,” id., at 87–88. Both remedies distinguish between working time that is compensable pursuant to contract or custom and practice, on the one hand, and time that was found compensable under this Court’s expansive reading of the FLSA, on the other. Like the original FLSA, however, the Portal-to-Portal Act omits any definition of the term “work.” With respect to existing claims, the Portal-to-Portal Act provided that employers would not incur liability on account of their failure to pay minimum wages or overtime compensation for any activity that was not compensable by either an express contract or an established custom or practice.[Footnote 2] With respect to “future claims,” the Act preserved potential liability for working time not made compensable by contract or custom but narrowed the coverage of the FLSA by excepting two activities that had been treated as compensable under our cases: walking on the employer’s premises to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity of the employee, and activities that are “preliminary or postliminary” to that principal activity. Specifically, Part III of the Portal-to-Portal Act, entitled “future claims,” provides in relevant part: “Sec. 4. Relief from Certain Future Claims Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 … — “(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) [which covers work compensable by contract or custom], no employer shall be subject to any liability or punishment under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, … on account of the failure of such employer to pay an employee minimum wages, or to pay an employee overtime compensation, for or on account of any of the following activities of such employee engaged in on or after the date of the enactment of this Act— “(1) walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform, and “(2) activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities, which occur either prior to the time on any particular workday at which such employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday at which he ceases, such principal activity or activities.” 61 Stat. 86–87 (codified at 29 U. S. C. §254(a)). Other than its express exceptions for travel to and from the location of the employee’s “principal activity,” and for activities that are preliminary or postliminary to that principal activity, the Portal-to-Portal Act does not purport to change this Court’s earlier descriptions of the terms “work” and “workweek,” or to define the term “workday.” A regulation promulgated by the Secretary of Labor shortly after its enactment concluded that the statute had no effect on the computation of hours that are worked “within” the workday. That regulation states: “[T]o the extent that activities engaged in by an employee occur after the employee commences to perform the first principal activity on a particular workday and before he ceases the performance of the last principal activity on a particular workday, the provisions of [§4] have no application” 29 CFR §790.6(a) (2005).[Footnote 3] Similarly, consistent with our prior decisions interpreting the FLSA, the Department of Labor has adopted the continuous workday rule, which means that the “workday” is generally defined as “the period between the commencement and completion on the same workday of an employee’s principal activity or activities.” §790.6(b). These regulations have remained in effect since 1947, see 12 Fed. Reg. 7658 (1947), and no party disputes the validity of the continuous workday rule. In 1955, eight years after the enactment of the Portal-to-Portal Act and the promulgation of these interpretive regulations, we were confronted with the question whether workers in a battery plant had a statutory right to compensation for the “time incident to changing clothes at the beginning of the shift and showering at the end, where they must make extensive use of dangerously caustic and toxic materials, and are compelled by circumstances, including vital considerations of health and hygiene, to change clothes and to shower in facilities which state law requires their employers to provide… .” Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U. S. 247, 248 (1956). After distinguishing “changing clothes and showering under normal conditions” and stressing the important health and safety risks associated with the production of batteries, id., at 249, the Court endorsed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that these activities were compensable under the FLSA. In reaching this result, we specifically agreed with the Court of Appeals that “the term ‘principal activity or activities’ in Section 4 [of the Portal-to-Portal Act] embraces all activities which are an ‘integral and indispensable part of the principal activities,’ and that the activities in question fall within this category.” Id., at 252–253. Thus, under Steiner, activities, such as the donning and doffing of specialized protective gear, that are “performed either before or after the regular work shift, on or off the production line, are compensable under the portal-to-portal provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act if those activities are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workmen are employed and are not specifically excluded by Section 4(a)(1).” Id., at 256. The principal question presented by these consolidated cases—both of which involve required protective gear that the courts below found integral and indispensable to the employees’ work—is whether postdonning and predoffing walking time is specifically excluded by §4(a)(1). We conclude that it is not. II Petitioner in No. 03–1238, IBP, Inc. (IBP), is a large producer of fresh beef, pork, and related products. At its plant in Pasco, Washington, it employs approximately 178 workers in 113 job classifications in the slaughter division and 800 line workers in 145 job classifications in the processing division. All production workers in both divisions must wear outer garments, hardhats, hairnets, earplugs, gloves, sleeves, aprons, leggings, and boots. Many of them, particularly those who use knives, must also wear a variety of protective equipment for their hands, arms, torsos, and legs; this gear includes chain link metal aprons, vests, plexiglass armguards, and special gloves. IBP requires its employees to store their equipment and tools in company locker rooms, where most of them don their protective gear. Production workers’ pay is based on the time spent cutting and bagging meat. Pay begins with the first piece of meat and ends with the last piece of meat. Since 1998, however, IBP has also paid for four minutes of clothes- changing time.[Footnote 4] In 1999, respondents, IBP employees, filed this class action to recover compensation for preproduction and postproduction work, including the time spent donning and doffing protective gear and walking between the locker rooms and the production floor before and after their assigned shifts. After a lengthy bench trial, the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington held that donning and doffing of protective gear that was unique to the jobs at issue were compensable under the FLSA because they were integral and indispensable to the work of the employees who wore such equipment. Moreover, consistent with the continuous workday rule, the District Court concluded that, for those employees required to don and doff unique protective gear, the walking time between the locker room and the production floor was also compensable because it occurs during the workday.[Footnote 5] The court did not, however, allow any recovery for ordinary clothes changing and washing, or for the “donning and doffing of hard hat[s], ear plugs, safety glasses, boots [or] hairnet[s].” App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 03–1238, p. 65a. The District Court proceeded to apply these legal conclusions in making detailed factual findings with regard to the different groups of employees. For example, the District Court found that, under its view of what was covered by the FLSA, processing division knife users were entitled to compensation for between 12 and 14 minutes of preproduction and postproduction work, including 3.3 to 4.4 minutes of walking time. The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court’s ultimate conclusions on these issues, but in part for different reasons. 339 F. 3d 894 (CA9 2003). After noting that the question whether activities “ ‘are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities’ ” within the meaning of Steiner, is “context specific,” 339 F. 3d, at 902, the Court of Appeals endorsed the distinction between the burdensome donning and doffing of elaborate protective gear, on the one hand, and the time spent donning and doffing nonunique gear such as hardhats and safety goggles, on the other. It did so not because donning and doffing nonunique gear are categorically excluded from being “principal activities” as defined by the Portal-to-Portal Act, but rather because, in the context of this case, the time employees spent donning and doffing nonunique protective gear was “ ‘de minimis as a matter of law.’ ” Id., at 904. IBP does not challenge the holding below that, in light of Steiner, the donning and doffing of unique protective gear are “principal activities” under §4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act. Moreover, IBP has not asked us to overrule Steiner. Considerations of stare decisis are particularly forceful in the area of statutory construction, especially when a unanimous interpretation of a statute has been accepted as settled law for several decades. Thus, the only question for us to decide is whether the Court of Appeals correctly rejected IBP’s contention that the walking between the locker rooms and the production areas is excluded from FLSA coverage by §4(a)(1) of the Portal-to-Portal Act. IBP argues that the text of §4(a)(1), the history and purpose of its enactment, and the Department of Labor’s interpretive guidance compel the conclusion that the Portal-to-Portal Act excludes this walking time from the scope of the FLSA. We find each of these arguments unpersuasive.