Rehearing Denied May 29, 1944
Messrs. E. L. All, S. M. Bronaugh, and William B. White, all of Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co.
Messrs. T. F. Patton, of Cleveland Ohio, R. T. Rives, of Montgomery, Ala., and Borden Burr, of Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner Republic Steel Corporation.
Mr. Crampton Harris, of Birmingham, Ala., J. A. Lipscomb, of Bessemer, Ala., and J. Q. Smith, of Birmingham, Ala., for respondents Muscoda Local No. 125, etc., and others.
Mr. Charles Fahy, of Washington, D.C., for respondent Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor.
Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.
We are confronted here with the problem of determining in part what constitutes work or employment in under- [321 U.S. 590, 592] ground iron ore mines within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. 201 et seq. This question, which is one of first impression, arises out of conflicting claims based upon the actual activities pursued and upon prior custom and contract in the iron ore mines. Such an issue can be resolved only by discarding formalities and adopting a realistic attitude, recognizing that we are dealing with human beings and with a statute that is intended to secure to them the fruits of their toil and exertion.
Three iron ore mining companies, petitioners herein, filed declaratory judgment actions1 to determine whether time spent by iron ore miners in traveling underground in mines to and from the 'working face'2 constitutes work or employment for which compensation must be paid under the Act. The respondent labor unions and their officials, representing petitioners' employees, were named as defendants and the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor was allowed to intervene. The actual controversy relates only to the hours of employment during the period intervening between the effective date of the Act, October 24, 1938, and the dates when the respective actions were initiated in April, 1941.3 It is [321 U.S. 590, 593] conceded that if underground travel constitutes employment, the miners worked more than the statutory maximum workweek and are entitled to be paid one and one-half times the regular rate for the excess hours. But if the travel time is excluded from the workweek, thus limiting it to the time spent at the working face, no overtime payments are due.
After extended hearings, the District Court found that the travel time 'bears in a substantial degree every indicia of worktime: supervision by the employer, physical and mental exertion, activity necessary to be performed for the employers' benefit, and conditions peculiar to the occupation of mining.' (40 F.Supp. 4, 10.) The court accordingly ruled that the travel time, as well as the time spent at the surface obtaining and returning tools, lamps and carbide and checking in and out, was included within the workweek. 40 F.Supp. 4. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed as to the travel time, holding that the District Court's findings on that matter were supported by substantial evidence. The judgment was modified by the Circuit Court, however, by excluding from the workweek the time spent in the activities at the surface. 5 Cir., 135 F.2d 320, rehearing denied 5 Cir., 137 F.2d 176. The importance of the problem as to the travel time led us to grant certiorari. 4
Specifically we are called upon to decide whether the District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals properly found that iron ore miners were at work within the meaning of the Act while engaged in underground travel which they were obliged to perform on the property of and under the direction of petitioners as a necessary concomitant of their employment. The record shows that petitioners own and operate twelve underground iron ore [321 U.S. 590, 594] mines in Jefferson County, Alabama,5 and that the general pattern of facts underlying the findings of the courts below is essentially the same in each of these mines.