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Mitchell v. King Packing Co.

U.S.
Jan 30, 1956
350 U.S. 260 (1956)

Summary

holding that time butchers spent sharpening knives was compensable because dull knives would "slow down production," affect meat quality, and lead to "accidents"

Summary of this case from Aguilar v. Mgmt. & Training Corp.

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

No. 39.

Argued November 16-17, 1955. Decided January 30, 1956.

Knifemen employed in butchering and trimming meat in respondent's meat-packing plant spend time each workday in sharpening the knives which they use in their work. Such knife sharpening is necessary for the proper performance of the work, and respondent requires it to be done outside the scheduled eight-hour shift of these employees and provides a room and equipment for its accomplishment. Held: This activity is a "principal," rather than a "preliminary" or "postliminary," activity, within the meaning of § 4(a)(2) of the Portal-to-Portal Act, and it is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Steiner v. Mitchell, ante, p. 247. Pp. 260-263.

216 F.2d 618, reversed and remanded.

Bessie Margolin argued the cause for petitioner. With her on the brief were Solicitor General Sobeloff, Ralph S. Spritzer, Stuart Rothman and Sylvia S. Ellison.

Willard S. Johnston argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.


This case like Steiner v. Mitchell, ante, p. 247, raises an issue of coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947. with respect to work performed before or after the direct or productive labor for which the worker is primarily paid.

The District Court denied to the Secretary of Labor an injunction to enforce compliance with the Act, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 216 F.2d 618.

The court below recognized a conflict with Steiner, and, although holding that Section 4 controls the situation here, determined, contrary to the holding in the Steiner case, that "the terms `preliminary' or `postliminary' cannot be interpreted so as to exclude [from the exemptions from the Act] all activity `indispensable to the performance of productive work.' To do so would deny effect to the intended meaning of the Portal-to-Portal Act." We granted certiorari to resolve this conflict. 349 U.S. 914.

"The Secretary argues that the sharpening of knives is not `preliminary' or `postliminary' but rather `an integral part of a principal activity,' since it is indispensable to the proper performance of the employees' work. He relies on a statement by Senator Cooper, one of the sponsors of the Portal-to-Portal Act, made during Senate debate on the bill that the term `principal activities' is `sufficiently broad to embrace within its terms such activities as are indispensable to the performance of productive work.' The case of Steiner v. Mitchell [ 215 F.2d 171], supports this contention." 216 F.2d, at 621.

In Steiner, for reasons therein set forth, we concluded that after the enforcement date of the Portal-to-Portal Act activities 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).

The only question to be determined in this case is whether the knife-sharpening activities of the employees of respondent King Packing Co. are within this classification.

Respondent is an interstate meat packer engaged in slaughtering, butchering, dressing and distributing meat and meat products. It employs at its packing plant about 75 persons, of whom about one-third are knifemen, whose compensation rights are involved in this litigation. The knifemen perform various butchering operations, 12 or 14 of them working in the killing room and the others in the cutting room. Various knives and three types of electric saws are used in the butchering operations. Some of the knives are furnished by the knifemen under the terms of their employment. These are the boning, the shaving, the legging and the skinning or siding knives. The saws and the more expensive loin pulling, ham skinning, shoulder trimming and sparerib knives are furnished by respondent. All of the knives as well as the saws must be "razor sharp" for the proper performance of the work. Respondent's production manager and one of the knifemen testified a dull knife would slow down production which is conducted on an assembly line basis, affect the appearance of the meat as well as the quality of the hides, cause waste and make for accidents; "that a knife to be of any practical value in a knife job has to be . . . sharp."

Though the entire cost of keeping the saws in proper condition is borne by respondent, the knifemen are required to sharpen their own knives outside the scheduled shift of eight hours, and for this activity they are not compensated. The sharpening of these knives is done either before or after the work shift or during the lunch hour in a room equipped by respondent with an emery wheel and grindstone. A knifeman ordinarily sharpens from two to four knives a day. At the time a man is hired for, or promoted to, a knife job, it is understood that he will be required to sharpen knives. He is expected to perform that task as well as other tasks connected with the job.

The knifemen are paid by the hour and, excluding the knife-sharpening time in controversy, they work eight hours a day, five days a week.

We believe the facts clearly demonstrate that the knife-sharpening activities of these workmen are an integral part of and indispensable to the various butchering activities for which they were principally employed, and that they must be compensated for by respondent in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act, and as construed by us today in Steiner v. Mitchell. Because the decision of the court below, resting solely upon an erroneous reading of Section 4, is not in accordance with our construction, the judgment must be reversed and remanded for proceedings not inconsistent herewith.

The discussion between Senator Cooper and Senator Barkley, quoted in an appendix to our opinion in the Steiner case, is particularly apposite to the facts of the instant case.

Reversed and remanded.


Summaries of

Mitchell v. King Packing Co.

U.S.
Jan 30, 1956
350 U.S. 260 (1956)

holding that time butchers spent sharpening knives was compensable because dull knives would "slow down production," affect meat quality, and lead to "accidents"

Summary of this case from Aguilar v. Mgmt. & Training Corp.

holding that time spent sharpening knives was compensable because butchers could not effectively cut meat without sharpening

Summary of this case from Aguilar v. Mgmt. & Training Corp.

holding that sharpening knives is an integral and indispensable part of a butcher's duties

Summary of this case from Singh v. City of New York

holding that clothes-changing and showering were an integral and indispensable part of the principal activity of manufacturing automotive-type wet batteries

Summary of this case from Peterson v. Nelnet Diversified Sols., LLC

holding that the "knifesharpening activities" of workmen at a meat processing plant were compensable because they were "an integral part of and indispensable to the various butchering activities for which they were principally employed"

Summary of this case from Martin v. City of Richmond

holding that butchers' knife-sharpening performed before and after work shift constituted "principal activities" for purposes of section 254

Summary of this case from Singh v. City of New York

holding that knife sharpening is "principal" activity of butchers in meat-packing plant

Summary of this case from ALVAREZ v. IBP, INC.

finding that butchers should be compensated for the time spent before and after their shifts sharpening their knives because having "razor sharp" knives was "an integral part of and indispensable to the various butchering activities for which they were principally employed"

Summary of this case from Quintanilla v. Suffolk Paving Corp.

finding that butchers should be compensated for the time spent before and after their shifts sharpening their knives because having “razor sharp” knives was “an integral part of and indispensable to the various butchering activities for which they were principally employed”

Summary of this case from Perez v. G&P Auto Wash Inc.

finding that employee time spent sharpening knives while off duty was an "integral part of and indispensable to the various butchering activities for which they were principally employed" because the maintenance of sharp knives was a condition of employment

Summary of this case from Bull v. U.S.

concluding that some preliminary and postliminary activities are compensable where those activities are "an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities"

Summary of this case from Mersnick v. Usprotect Corporation

ruling that butchers for meat packing company should be compensated for time spent sharpening knives prior to and after work and during lunch hours because that activity was indispensable and integral to their principle activities

Summary of this case from Albanese v. Bergen County

determining that sharpening knives is integral and indispensable to the work of meat packing employees

Summary of this case from Tyger v. Precision Drilling Corp.

In Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U.S. 260, 76 S.Ct. 337, 100 L.Ed. 282 (1956), it concluded that knife-sharpening activities were integral and indispensable to the employees’ work at the meat-packing plant.

Summary of this case from Bridges v. Empire Scaffold, L.L.C.

In King Packing, for example, the Supreme Court held that a slaughterhouse employee's knife sharpening was integral and indispensable to the principal activity of butchering.

Summary of this case from Perez v. City of N.Y.

applying Steiner to hold that workers in a meat packing plant were entitled to compensation for the time spent sharpening their knives, because the knife-sharpening activities were an integral part of, and indispensable to, the principal activities for which the workers were employed

Summary of this case from De Asencio v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

knife-sharpening in a meat-packing plant is integral and indispensable to employee's principal activity of butchering

Summary of this case from Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp.

In Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U.S. 260, 76 S.Ct. 337, 100 L.Ed. 282 (1956), the Supreme Court applied Steiner to hold that knifemen in a meat packing plant, who were required to keep their knives razor-sharp to achieve proper performance of their butchering duties, were entitled to compensation for the time spent sharpening their knives.

Summary of this case from Chao v. Tradesmen Intern., Inc.

In Mitchell, the record reflected that the knives "must be 'razor sharp' for the proper performance of the work.... [A] dull knife would slow down production... affect the appearance of the meat as well as the quality of the hides, cause waste and make for accidents."

Summary of this case from Smith v. Allegheny Techs., Inc.

In King Packing, the Court held that knifemen's sharpening their knives outside of work hours in a meat-packing plant was indispensable to the principal activity.

Summary of this case from Apple v. Atl. Yards Dev. Co.

applying Steiner to hold that workers in a meat packing plant were entitled to compensation for the time spent sharpening their knives, because the knife-sharpening activities were an integral part of, and indispensable to, the principal activities for which the workers were employed

Summary of this case from Guenzel v. Mount Olive Bd. of Educ.

knife-sharpening activities of workmen in a meatpacking plant before and after their scheduled shift time were integral and indispensable to their work

Summary of this case from Helmert v. Butterball, LLC

In Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U.S. 260, 76 S.Ct. 337, 100 L.Ed. 282 (1956) announced the same day as Steiner, the Court examined a less caustic situation — the knife-sharpening activities of the respondent's butchers.

Summary of this case from Marshall v. Gerwill, Inc.

In King Packing, the Supreme Court found that meat-cutters who held positions as "knifemen" in a meat-packing plant were required to keep their knives razor-sharp as a condition of their employment.

Summary of this case from Adams v. U.S.
Case details for

Mitchell v. King Packing Co.

Case Details

Full title:MITCHELL, SECRETARY OF LABOR, v . KING PACKING CO

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jan 30, 1956

Citations

350 U.S. 260 (1956)
76 S. Ct. 337

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