Skidmore et. al. worked for
Swift. They worked a normal 40-hour work week during the day, but
sometimes stayed overnight to respond to fire alarms.
They were given sleeping
quarters and a lounge, and they had no other duties besides responding to
alarms, which was infrequent.
Skidmore et. al. were paid a
set amount per alarm they responded to, in addition to their weekly
Skidmore et. al. sued Swift
for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. C. §207).
Skidmore argued that they
were entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay for the extra hours worked,
as opposed to the per-response rate they'd agreed to.
The Trial Court found for
Swift. Skidmore appealed.
The Trial Court found that
as a conclusion of law, waiting
time can never count as 'work'.
"The time plaintiffs
spent in the fire hall subject to call to answer fire alarms does not
constitute hours worked, for which overtime compensation is due them
under the Fair Labor Standards Act,
as interpreted by the Administrator and the Courts."
"Of course we know
pursuing such pleasurable occupations or performing such personal chores
does not constitute work."
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that "no principle of law found either in the Statute or in Court
decisions precludes waiting time from also being working time."
Whether the time counted as
work was a question of fact, not
a question of law.
The Court looked to an
Amicus Brief filed by the Administrator from the Department of Labor, which
said that the determination of whether waiting time counted at work
should be based on a case-by-case basis, and it was not a question of
law, but instead a question
The Dept of Labor had never
issued any regulations on this topic.
The Court found that the
Administrator was much more knowledgeable of labor law and the Fair
Labor Standards Act than the Court
was, and therefore the Court should take his comments seriously.
The case was remanded and
the Trial Court was ordered to decide if Skidmore's time counted as work
as a question of fact.
Basically, this case said that
although the rulings, interpretations, and opinions of the Administrator
under the Fair Labor Standards Act
do not control judicial decision, they do constitute a body
of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may
properly resort for guidance.
This case was later overruled
by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council (467 U.S. 837 (1984)), which basically said
that the Agency's opinion should be controlling unless it is unreasonable.
Although, the Courts have
recently come back to Skidmore, and found that not every decision should
get complete (Chevron) deference. Some decisions are only given partial
See United States v.
Mead Corp. (533 U.S. 218 (2001)).