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IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez

Supreme Court of the United States

October 3, 2005, Argued ; November 8, 2005, Decided

(No. 03-1238), (No. 04-66)


 [*24]  [**518]   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 [****7]  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. 1144, 125 S. Ct. 1292, 161 L. Ed. 2d 104 (2005).

 [*25]  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  [***295]  in excess of 40 hours after the second year following the legislation "unless such employee receives compensation for his [****8]  employment in excess of [40] 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. 1

 [**519]  Our early cases defined those terms broadly.  In  Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 64 S. Ct. 698, 88 L. Ed. 949 (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, 64 S. Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949; see  id., at 598, n. 11, 64 S. Ct. 698, 88 L. Ed. 949.  The same year, in  Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 65 S. Ct. 165, 89 L. Ed. 118 (1944), [****9]  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, 65 S. Ct. 165, 89 L. Ed. 118.  Two years later, in  Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 66 S. Ct. 1187, 90 L. Ed. 1515 (1946), we defined "the statutory workweek" to "includ[e] 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, 66 S. Ct. 1187, 90 L. Ed. 1515.  Accordingly,  [*26]  we held that the time necessarily spent by employees walking from timeclocks near the factory entrance gate to their workstations must be treated as part of the workweek.  Id., at 691-692, 66 S. Ct. 1187, 90 L. Ed. 1515.

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546 U.S. 21 *; 126 S. Ct. 514 **; 163 L. Ed. 2d 288 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 8373 ****; 74 U.S.L.W. 4001; 151 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P35,056; 10 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 1825; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 569

IBP, INC., Petitioner v. GABRIEL ALVAREZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, et al. ABDELA TUM, et al., Petitioners v. BARBER FOODS, INC., dba BARBER FOODS

Subsequent History: Related proceeding at  Chavez v. IBP, Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29679 (E.D. Wash., Nov. 28, 2005)

Later proceeding at  Alvarez v. IBP, Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41559 (E.D. Wash., Dec. 20, 2005)


 Alvarez v. IBP, Inc., 339 F.3d 894, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 15622 (9th Cir. Wash., 2003) Tum v. Barber Foods, Inc., 360 F.3d 274, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 5427 (1st Cir. Me., 2004)

Disposition: No. 03-1238,  339 F.3d 894, affirmed; No. 04-66,  360 F.3d 274, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


principal activity, walking, workday, gear, Portal-to-Portal Act, employees, doffing, indispensable, integral, regulation, time spent, clothing, waiting, coverage, postliminary, whistle, travel, waiting time, locker room, plant, custom, cases, spend, place of performance, commencement, provisions, workweek, floor, spent, doff

Labor & Employment Law, Wage & Hour Laws, Scope & Definitions, Definition of Employ, Business & Corporate Compliance, Minimum Wage, Overtime & Work Periods, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Statutory Application, Portal-to-Portal Act