Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington

PETITIONER: Icicle Seafoods, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Worthington
LOCATION: City of Cleveland Fire Department

DOCKET NO.: 85-195
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 475 US 709 (1986)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1986
DECIDED: Apr 21, 1986

ADVOCATES:
Clemens H. Barnes - on behalf of Petitioner
Carson F. Eller - on behalf of Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1986 in Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Icicle Seafoods against Worthington.

Mr. Barnes, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Clemens H. Barnes:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime pay requirements do not apply to someone who is "employed as a seaman".

The Act does not define the term "employed as a seaman".

However, administrative and court interpretations have clarified that the term "seaman" is not limited to what we would ordinarily think of as sailors... skippers, deck crew.

It includes other members of a ship's crew... its cooks, its pursers, and, pertinent here, its engineers.

The question is the case is whether marine engineers aboard a seagoing processing vessel were correctly categorized as seamen and therefore paid a fixed salary without allowance for overtime.

The issue this morning is whether the Ninth Circuit under the appropriate standard of review correctly substituted its own determination that these engineers are not seamen because they primarily perform not maritime but industrial duties, on the trial judge's determination that the engineers or the Arctic Star were employed as seamen because the nature of their work was maritime.

The Court of Appeals' degree of freedom to substitute its own determination in this regard depends in our analysis upon whether that Court disagreed with the trial judge's understanding of how to define the term "employed as a seaman", in which case it would be free to substitute its own definition, or whether it disagreed with the district court's interpretation of the facts, in which case it would be required to pay deference to the trial judge's findings under the clearly erroneous rule.

Here our contention is and the record shows the Court of Appeals did not fault the district court for misunderstanding the definition of the term "employed as a seaman".

There wasn't doubt about that term.

It was well established that someone is employed as a seaman of he is

"a member of a ship's crew whose work is primarily maritime. "

What the Ninth Circuit disagreed with was the trial judge's determination that the work of these engineers was primarily maritime, and substituted its own determination that the maritime work was only incidental to primary duties which were in essence industrial maintenance.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Barnes, the ultimate question of whether the workers were seamen, is it a mixed question of fact and law, do you suppose?

Clemens H. Barnes:

Well, that depends in our analysis on what the issue is.

If the question is--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The ultimate determination whether someone is a seaman, is that a mixed question of fact and law?

Clemens H. Barnes:

--It has both elements to it.

If the dispute is over how you define the term "seaman", from our standpoint, what character of duties make someone a seaman, if that is what is at issue, you have the legal aspect of that question.

If the issue is what are the character of the duties of these particular workers, then that aspect of the determination is factual.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The subsidiary fact finding that goes into it would be factual?

Clemens H. Barnes:

Yes.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Did... now, there are administrative regulations, are there not?

Clemens H. Barnes:

Yes.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Interpreting what the law requires--

Clemens H. Barnes:

Yes.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--for who is a seaman?

Clemens H. Barnes:

Yes.