Mitchell v. Oregon Frozen Foods Co.

PETITIONER: Mitchell
RESPONDENT: Oregon Frozen Foods Co.
LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DOCKET NO.: 33
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 361 US 231 (1960)
ARGUED: Nov 17, 1959
DECIDED: Jan 11, 1960

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Mitchell v. Oregon Frozen Foods Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 17, 1959 in Mitchell v. Oregon Frozen Foods Co.

Earl Warren:

Number 33, Mitchell, Secretary of Labor, Petitioner, versus Oregon Frozen Foods Company et al.

Ms. Margolin.

Bessie Margolin:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The issues in this case concern two related exemptions from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as those exemptions apply to the processes of frozen vegetable.

The first section, first exemption is to that of Section 7 (c) which insofar is pertinent here, provides for an exemption of for not more than 14 work weeks in a calendar year, for employment of employees in a place where the employer is engaged in the first processing of or in the canning or packing of perishable of seasonal fresh fruits or vegetables.

The other section involved is the Section 7 (b) (3) which provides another overtime exemption also for not more than 14 work weeks, but limited to 12 hours a day and 56 a week, for any employee employed in an industry found by the administrator to be of a seasonal nature.

Now the issues under both of this -- these exemptions turn on the same language because the administrator made his seasonal finding under Section 7 (b) (3) in the same language as the first processing language of Section 7 (c) and determined that the exemptions could be accumulated.

I'll say that the issues turn on this -- the same language at least all the issues that were raised in the court below, the whole issue was about the meaning of the language, the first processing of perishable, of seasonal fresh fruits or vegetables as used in the statute in Section 7 (c) and the identical language as used in Section 7 (b) (3).

For -- in the briefs of respondents and of amicus curiae, the National Association of Frozen Food Packers for the first time in this Court, a question is raised as to the validity of the administrator's seasonal finding under Section 7 (b) (3).

We have filed -- petitioners filed a reply brief directed primarily to this issue and if time permits, I will come in on it later, but since the issues presented by the -- decided below and tried below and presented in the petition for certiorari related solely to the meaning of this language, I'll address myself primarily to -- to that question, to -- to that issue.

The pertinent facts are not in dispute.

As a matter of fact they were agreed to and incorporated by agreement in the District Court's pretrial order and by the way were the contentions and the issues.

I'm not making too much of the point of that because we -- we think that the -- the new contention is -- is without merits, certainly not well taken, but there is some question as to whether it is -- is properly -- whether it has not been foreclosed by the stipulation of the parties at the pretrial order.

The operations of -- of Oregon are described in these agreed facts.

If the -- they have an active season, they're engaged in -- in freezing and package -- and packaging corn and carrots and on mixed vegetables -- mixed frozen vegetables.

The active season for corn is about nine or 10 weeks from August 1st to August -- to October 10th and the active season for carrots is from about October 15 to December 1st, about six -- approximately six weeks.

The process through which the -- the Oregon purchase that -- purchases the -- the crops during the harvested season and from nearby -- from nearby farm and it has -- has to immediately process them to stop the natural deterioration and -- and to put them into preservable form.

The process includes the cutting and cleaning and otherwise preparing for blanching, a partial cooking process.

And -- and this partial cooking process kills the enzymes which are responsible for our organic growth and the consequent rapid deterioration from natural causes.

Then the -- the blanched vegetables are put through the freezing units and quick-frozen.

After they've been quick-frozen in loose farm and this is done immediately on receipt of the -- of the vegetable, some of the vegetables are immediately packaged in consumer-sized containers.

Normally, however, only a small part of the vegetables -- the frozen vegetables can be so packed immediately.

Less than a third of the corn for example was packaged during the active season in 1954, I believe it was.

The balance of the vegetables is packaged in large bulk, this is after they've been quick-frozen, in large bulk containers and placed in cold storage to be repackaged when the rest season ends.

This can be and is spread out over many months and may continue through the following May even.

In addition to the -- the freezing and the bulk packaging of the corn and carrots, Oregon also from December through -- I think in December and January for several months, mixed -- prepares a mixed vegetable, mixed frozen vegetable from its corn -- its own frozen corn and carrots and from -- mixed with peas and beans and lima beans, string beans and lima beans, which it purchases already frozen from other processors in Washington, California and Oregon.

The -- during the active harvesting season, Oregon employs approximately 300 employees -- production employees for the processing of the corn and reduces that number at the end of the season to about 20 employees.

For carrots during the active season, about 40 production employees are employed and that's reduced to about 20 at the end of the active season.

Potter Stewart:

Do the -- do the seasons overlap?

Could you tell us?