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WALLING v. HELMERICH & PAYNE

decided: November 6, 1944.

WALLING, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE WAGE AND HOUR DIVISION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
v.
HELMERICH & PAYNE, INC.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Murphy

[ 323 U.S. Page 37]

 MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are concerned here with the question whether certain provisions of employment contracts relating to the

[ 323 U.S. Page 38]

     computation and application of regular and overtime wage rates conform to the requirements of § 7 (a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U. S. C. § 201 et seq.

Respondent is engaged in the production of oil and gas for interstate commerce and its employees admittedly are covered by the Act. Prior to October 24, 1938, the effective date of the Act, certain of respondent's employees worked 8-, 10- and 12-hour daily shifts, or "tours," and were paid a specified wage for each tour. These wages were in excess of the minimum required by the Act, though the number of tours per week would often cause an employee to work more than the maximum hours allowed by the Act without overtime pay being required.

In order to maintain the same wage levels after the Act became effective, respondent made new employment contracts with the employees in question whereby they received their wages under the so-called "Poxon" or split-day plan. This plan arbitrarily divided each regular tour into two parts for purposes of calculating and applying hourly wage rates. The first four hours of each 8-hour tour, the first five hours of each 10-hour tour and the first five hours of each 12-hour tour were assigned a specified hourly rate described as the "base or regular rate." The remaining hours in each tour were treated as "overtime" and called for payment at one and one-half times the "base or regular rate." The contracts then recited that the "base rate" set forth "shall never apply to more than 40 hours in any work week."

These so-called "regular" and "overtime" hourly rates were calculated so as to insure that the total wages for each tour would continue the same as under the original contracts,*fn1 thereby avoiding the necessity of increasing

[ 323 U.S. Page 39]

     wages or decreasing hours of work as the statutory maximum workweek of 40 hours became effective.*fn2 Only in the extremely unlikely case where an employee's tours totaled more than 80 hours in a week*fn3 did he become entitled to any pay in addition to the regular tour wages that he would have received prior to the adoption of the split-day plan. Until more than 80 hours had been worked the plan operated so that the employee could not be credited with more than 40 hours of "regular" work, the remaining time being denominated "overtime." Hence, since the wages under the old system and under the split-day plan were identical, the original tour rates could be used as the simple method of computing wages for each pay period. The actual and regular workweek was accordingly shorn of all significance.

The District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals both held that the split-day plan of compensation, under the decision of this Court in Walling v. Belo Corp., 316 U.S. 624, did not violate the provisions of § 7 (a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. We cannot agree.

Section 7 (a) limits to 40 a week the number of hours that an employer may employ any of his employees subject to the Act, unless the employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of 40 hours at a rate "not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." The split-day plan ...


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