Employees of the Department of Public Health & Welfare of Missouri v. Missouri Public Health & Welfare of Missouri

PETITIONER: Employees of the Department of Public Health & Welfare of Missouri
RESPONDENT: Missouri Public Health & Welfare of Missouri
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 71-1021
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 411 US 279 (1973)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1973
DECIDED: Apr 18, 1973

Charles A. Blackmar - for respondents
Lawrence G. Wallace - argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case


Media for Employees of the Department of Public Health & Welfare of Missouri v. Missouri Public Health & Welfare of Missouri

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1973 in Employees of the Department of Public Health & Welfare of Missouri v. Missouri Public Health & Welfare of Missouri

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in 71-1021, Employees against to the Department of Public Health and Welfare.

Mr. Zwerdling, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

We are here on certiorari from a five-four decision of Eighth Circuit granting motion to dismiss a complaint filed by employees of the State of Missouri.

They sue for time-and-a-half overtime pay and additional equal amount as liquidated damages and reasonable counsel fees as provided for in a Fair Labor Standards Act known as the Wage-Hour Law.

That Act was amended in 1966 to apply to such state employees.

Complaint was filed on Federal District Court in 1969, alleging violation of the overtime provisions commencing in 1967 on February of that year and continuing thereafter.

In 1966, amendments to the Act under which these employees of state schools and hospital sue was held to a proper exercise of the congressional power under Commerce Clause in Maryland versus Wirtz by this Court.

And the case today presents the question which was expressly reserved in Maryland versus Wirtz as unnecessary to decision there of whether employees may sue in federal court to enforce rights given them by 1966 Amendments.

We submit that Congress intended to permit such employee suits against the States for violation of the Act and that Congress have the power under the Commerce Clause to so provide not withstanding the Eleventh Amendment.

The congressional intent is clear.

Statute in 16 (b) of that Act provides and I quote “Any employer -- any employer who violates the provisions of Section 6 or Section 7, those are the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions.

Any employer who so violates the provisions of this Act shall be a liable to the employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages or their unpaid overtime compensation as the case may be, and then in additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

Actions to recover such liability may be maintained at any court of competent jurisdiction in Section (b), the language of States. Now the term “employer” which is used in that Section as defined in Section 3 of the Act and what those amendments in 1966 did was to expand this definition to bring under the statute as employers within the meaning of that Section, the States and their political subdivisions with the respect to certain institutions, schools, and hospitals. Prior to that year of the amendments, the Section said employer shall not include the United States or any state or political subdivision of a state.

But when they added the amendatory language, Congress specifically injected a removal of that exclusion of the states from the definition by inserting the language in 1966, “except with respect to employees of a state or political subdivision thereof, employed in a hospital, institution, or school referred to in a last sentence of Subsection (r) of this Section.

And so Congress chose explicitly to remove this previously excluded category and the subsection to which it reversed in this definition is the definition of the word “enterprise.”

Here, Congress added to the list of covered enterprises, the operation of a hospital, institution, or school, and once again on those amendments, Congress underlined its expressed intention by adding these words, “Regardless of whether or not such hospital, institution, or school is public or private or operated for profit or not for profit.”

Nothing could be clear or more explicit and again, in the next Subsection which speaks of the definition of “enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.”

Congress added the same language once again stressing, “Regardless of whether or not such hospital, institution, or school is public or private.”

The remedy of the employee’s suit in Section 16 (b) has existed in the statute since it was enacted in 1938.

It reaches the States here because it says, “Any employer who violate this Sections will be subject to such suits.”

And by expanding that definition of employer thus this remedy comes into play.

Potter Stewart:

It actually says, shall be liable to the employee and --

That’s right, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

It’s for a -- do I understand that if there is a recovery, it is automatic that the recovery be a double recovery?

That is explicit in Section 16 (b) it says, “And in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.”

Potter Stewart:

And it’s a lot clear that there is no discretion in the trial court too?

There is some discretion, Your Honor.

But the purpose of the liquidated damages is it is instead of interest rates for purposes of certainty in setting the language --

Potter Stewart:

For other purpose, but I asked -- I wondered and I am asking for information, is the law clear or is it not that when there is a recovery, the recovery has to be a double recovery?