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SCHMIDT v. REICH

September 27, 1993

GEORGE SCHMIDT, HECTOR ESCALERA, JANET FENNERTY, MARIA CASTILLO, CAPRICE NEALS, MIRIAM BECKFORD and ADELINA BORGES, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROBERT REICH, Secretary of Labor, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

 In this action, five high school students and two school teachers ask this Court to declare that section 3(l) of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 203(l), permits regulation of work hours for sixteen and seventeen year olds, and further seek to enjoin the Secretary of Labor to investigate whether late night and/or excessive work hours can be detrimental to the health and well-being of 16 and 17 year old children and to conduct rulemaking regarding the limitation of work hours for these children. Currently before us are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, we grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and deny plaintiffs' motion.

 I. Factual Background

 Although the plaintiffs have submitted a 12(m) statement purporting to assay the abusive conditions confronted by sixteen and seventeen year old students holding down afterschool jobs and to detail the deleterious effects of such conditions, the submission encounters two significant obstacles. First, in all but one paragraph, plaintiffs neglect to cite to any record evidence supporting their assertions. Second, with the exception of the section entitled "Plaintiffs' Stories," the factual averments contained in the 12(m) statement are not relevant to this Court's inquiry. We will, then, simply recite, briefly, pertinent background information regarding the plaintiffs.

 All five of the student plaintiffs attend Amundsen High School in Chicago. All need to work. *fn1" Hector Escalera, 18 years old at the time of filing, is a senior at Amundsen who took a job with Venture during his sophomore and junior years. Although the store closed at ten, Escalera often worked until midnight. Unable to get home before 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., Escalera became exhausted and his grades suffered. Escalera has since found a better job, and his grades have improved. However, he is concerned that his two years of poor grades will prevent him from gaining admission to a good college.

 At age 16, Maria Castillo worked from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. six days a week. Currently nineteen years old and unable to find a part-time job with reasonable hours, Castillo is unemployed. She asserts that her earlier employment hurt her grades and jeopardized her ability to finish high school.

 Caprice Neals was also eighteen at the time this suit was filed and has since turned nineteen. For approximately a year and a half, Neals served as a stock boy at Venture, working fifteen to twenty-three hours per week and frequently getting off after midnight on school nights. Neals is presently employed by J.C. Penney's, but he alleges that his late night hours at Venture damaged his grades. *fn2"

 Prior to January, 1993, Adelina Borges worked at Ace Hardware. Her schedule called for her to put in over 30 hours per week. Unhappy with her work load, Borges' counsellor called Ace and asked the store to cut back on the student's hours. Ace refused. Borges avers that her substantial late-night employment has hurt her grades, her health, and her ability to get into college. Borges turned eighteen one month after this suit was filed.

 Finally, Miriam Beckford is currently seventeen. Although employed by McDonald's at the time litigation commenced, Beckford has since quit and is now unemployed. While at McDonald's, Beckford worked ten to fifteen hours per week and was required to stay until 1:00 a.m. Beckford alleges that this late night employment hurt her grades and compromised her health. *fn3"

 In addition to the five student plaintiffs, two teachers from Amundsen, George Schmidt and Janet Fennerty, are plaintiffs in this lawsuit. In their years of teaching, Fennerty and Schmidt have observed, taught, and counselled students battling to maintain their grades while holding down nearly full-time or late-night jobs. Such students are easy to spot, they claim. Because their jobs prevent them from getting enough rest at night, working students often skip class to sleep. High performing students suddenly start turning in poor work. At times, Fennerty has allowed working students to skip class so that they can rest, issuing them passes to the nurse's office. Concerned about the effect of long work hours on his students, Edward Klunk, principal of Amundsen, has called numerous employers to request that they cut back his students' work schedule. Most have complied.

 II. Discussion

 As a threshold matter, we must first address the Secretary's contention that plaintiffs lack standing to pursue this action and that, in any event, this matter does not present a justiciable controversy at this time.

 A. Standing

 In order to adjudicate a claim in federal court, Article III requires a plaintiff to have standing. A plaintiff satisfies the constitutional requirements of standing if (1) she has suffered an injury in fact, (2) a causal connection exists between the injury and the conduct of which she complains, and (3) it is likely that the injury will be remedied by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351, 112 S. Ct. 2130, 2136 (1992). The standing doctrine further encompasses prudential policies such as a "general prohibition on a litigant's raising another person's legal rights," and "the requirement that a plaintiff's complaint fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked." Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1984); Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 110 S. Ct. 3177, 3186, 111 L. Ed. 2d 695 (1990). Prudential principles help Article III courts avoid deciding questions of broad social policy in the absence of individual grievances by limiting access to those litigants best situated to press the proffered claim. See Gladstone Realtors v. Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99-100, 99 S. Ct. 1601, 60 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1979). The government contends that plaintiffs, each in different ways, fail to meet constitutional and prudential standing requirements and may not bring this action.

 (i) Teachers

 First, the Secretary contests the teachers' standing to challenge his interpretation of the FLSA and his failure to undertake rulemaking, contending that these plaintiffs are not within the "class of persons that the statutory provision was designed to protect." Association of Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 155, 90 S. Ct. 827, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184 (1970). Thus, even if the teachers were able to fulfill the constitutional standing requirements, prudential considerations argue against their litigation of this matter. See FMC Corp. v. Boesky, 852 F.2d 981, 988 (7th Cir. 1988). We agree.

 Congress enacted the relevant provisions of the FLSA for the express purpose of eliminating "oppressive child labor." 29 U.S.C. § 212(c). Although it may be that oppressive child labor" includes employment that impairs a student's ability to perform in school, Congress assuredly was not directing itself to protecting a teacher's capacity to educate, but a child's ability to learn. It is the minor children affected by excessive night labor who are best suited to litigate any misinterpretation of the statute and any failure by the Secretary to appropriately conduct rulemaking on this subject. Accordingly, to the extent that they are proceeding on ...


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