Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc.

PETITIONER: Mitchell
RESPONDENT: Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc.
LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DOCKET NO.: 39
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 361 US 288 (1960)
ARGUED: Nov 16, 1959
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1960

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 16, 1959 (Part 2) in Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 16, 1959 (Part 1) in Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 39, Mitchell, Secretary of Labor, Petitioner versus Robert DeMario Jewelry Company.

Ms. Margolin.

Bessie Margolin:

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honor.

This case involves the section of the Fair Labor Standards Act which makes it unlawful for any person to discharge or, in any other manner, discriminate against any employee because he has filed a complaint instituted a cause to be instituted any proceeding under or related to the Act.

The section is quoted on page 2 of petitioner's brief.

The issue is with respect to the scope of the Court's power to restrain violations of this section.

The question turns on the meaning of the jurisdictional language of Section 17 of the Act, which is also quoted on pages 2 to 3 of the petitioner's brief, which provides that the District Courts shall have jurisdiction for cause shown to restrain violations of Section 15 as a proviso in -- to that section which I'll show yet to you later but that -- since that was not the basis of the Court of Appeal's decision, I will defer reference to that until after meeting the grounds on which the decision below rested.

The facts, the pertinent facts are not in dispute and as substantially as they were found by the trial court.

Immediately after service of the complaints on the respondents for the recovery of wages due some named employees, respondent and respondents who are the DeMario Corporation and Robert DeMario individually who's virtually the sole owner of the corporation and one of the office -- offices of the corporation.

The respondents immediately set out on a -- embarked on a course of discrimination against the employees in whose name these complaints were filed.

And by changing their seating arrangements and taunting them in various ways and assigning them less desirable work and other things of that nature within two weeks, all three of the employees had been discharged.

The trial court found that all three of these employees were relatively long-term employees.

Two of them in particular had worked continuously for respondents longer than most, if not all the other employees.

There have never been any complaints about their work.

And one who had worked the -- continuously for respondents for over three years were admittedly above average.

And the trial court found that none of them would have been laid off had it not been for the filing of these suits or -- or if they have been laid off, they would long since had been reinstated.

The trial court concluded that this conduct clearly constituted a violation of Section 15 (a) 3, that the evidence was so clear and convincing that the Secretary was entitled to an injunction to restrain respondents from discriminating against the said employees and also to a mandatory order requiring respondents to reinstate them.

However, the Court declined to grant the Secretary's request for reimbursement for loss of wages resulting from the unlawful discharges.

The Court noted that the question of whether it had jurisdiction to order such reimbursement had been raised but that it said it was not necessary to rule on that question because in the exercise of its discretion, it would -- it would decline to order reimbursement.

But it made no -- no findings as to mitigating circumstances and gave no reason for so exercising its discretion.

The Secretary appealed from the denial of the reimbursement and the respondents cross appeal from the order for reinstatement.

The Court of Appeals affirmed sustaining the trial court in both respects, holding that there was authority to order reinstatement but that there was no corresponding authority to order reimbursement.

And because of its ruling that there was no power, the Court of Appeals said it was unnecessary to reach the question whether the trial court had abused its discretion in declining to order the reimbursement.

Potter Stewart:

Isn't it also true that the Court of Appeals said, for not reaching the question of discretion that if it should have to reach that question, the record before was insufficient?

Bessie Margolin:

Well, they said that not enough of it had been printed under the Court's rules of -- of -- redesignated only the findings of the Court to printing.

Respondent could have crossed designated and didn't, and the Court said, “Well, if they had to reach that question, they -- they can, of their own motion in that Court, order more of the record printed,” So they -- they didn't reach that question at all.

If the Court of Appeals was wrong, the case probably would have to go back for consideration of that question.

Potter Stewart:

We don't have any record here.

Bessie Margolin:

No, we have nothing here but the printed record.

The sole question here is whether the Court has any power --