National Labor Relations Board v. United Insurance Company of America

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: United Insurance Company of America
LOCATION: Spokane County Superior Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 254 (1968)
ARGUED: Jan 23, 1968 / Jan 24, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 06, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. United Insurance Company of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 24, 1968 in National Labor Relations Board v. United Insurance Company of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 23, 1968 in National Labor Relations Board v. United Insurance Company of America

Earl Warren:

No. 178, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner, versus United Insurance Company of America.

Mr. Manoli.

Dominick L. Manoli:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case here is on a writ of certiorari to the Seventh Circuit.

The National Labor Relations Act excludes from the term “employees” and therefore, from the protection that employs have under the statute.

It includes from that term any individual having the status of an independent contractor.

The board found that the debit agents of the respondent Insurance Company are employees and not independent contractors, and that therefore the company violated the statute when it refused to bargain with the union which the board has certified as the agent’s partly represented.

The court below, on the other hand, held that the debit agents were independent contractors and not employees, and that therefore the company was under no obligation to recognize or (Voice Overlap) with the union.

The question presented is whether the board properly determined that these agents are employees within the meaning of the Act, and whether the Court below in displacing that judgment with its own judgment has overstepped its reviewing function.

I think its not unfair to say that the facts which underlie the dispute, and putting to one side some argumentative shadings that there really is no significant dispute as what the basic facts are that give rise to this controversy in which I think in the final analysis, will govern its disposition.

The record here is a very lengthy one and well, I very much regret in giving the Court a rather lengthy summary of the facts.

I think that a full understanding of those cases requires a summary of the facts no longer than usual.

The company is engaged in the sale of life and health and accident insurance through its district offices located in various states.

Every district office has a manager and several assistant managers.

Each assistant manager is in-charge of the staff of four or five of these debit agents are involved in this case.

The company has a compliment of approximately 3,000 debit agents and involved in these proceedings are approximately 150 of these agents who are attached to the company’s district offices in Baltimore.

The company hires the debit agents and assigns them to a particular district office.

A debit agent deals mainly with the industrial insurance.

This type of insurance, unlike the ordinary or commercial insurance, involves smaller coverage usually a thousand dollars or less, and provides for the payment of premiums on a weekly basis.

The agent's job is to collect premiums from the holders of these policies in a relatively concentrated geographic area to prevent the lapsing of policies and the sales of such a new insurance as time allows.

He spends most of his time collecting premiums from the policy holders whom he serves.

The agents need not have any prior training or experience that are trained by company’s supervisory personnel.

The company's supplies them with a so-called, and I might say a misnamed great book which contains detailed and comprehensive instructions how to perform many of their duties, requires them to file weekly and other periodic reports with respect to their premiums collected, the increase or decrease in business, lapses, and so on.

The company reviews his reports, requires changes if necessary and approves them and correct.

The agents do business in the company's name.

The company provides them with the debit book which contains the names of the policy -- names of the policy holders the agent has to serve, the insurance policies, various forms and sales promotion literature.

Although the agents may be licensed to sell other company's insurance and sometimes do such sales are infrequent.

The terms and conditions under which they operate and the compensation which they received are promulgated unilaterally by the company.

Their compensation is based primarily upon a percentage commission of the premiums collected.

The agents participate in the company's group insurance and profit sharing pension fund which the company has established for the benefit of employees.