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Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington, 475 U.S. 709 (1986)

Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington

No. 85-195

Argued February 25, 1986

Decided April 21, 1986

475 U.S. 709


Respondents were employed by petitioner as members of the Engineering Department on board a nonself-propelled fish-processing barge. They sued petitioner in Federal District Court, seeking to recover overtime benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Finding that they were seamen because they performed work of a maritime character on navigable waters, the District Court held that respondents were excluded from such benefits under the provision of the FLSA that excludes "any employee employed as a seaman." The Court of Appeals reversed. Reviewing under a "de novo" standard, the Court of Appeals found that respondents' "dominant employment" was "industrial maintenance," and that the "maritime work" that they performed took only a small portion of their time, and therefore concluded that respondents were not seamen.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in engaging in such factfinding. The facts necessary to a proper determination of the legal question whether an exemption to the FLSA applies in a particular case should be reviewed by the courts of appeals pursuant to the "clearly erroneous" standard of review set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), like the facts in other civil bench-tried litigation in federal courts. Walling v. General Industries Co., 330 U. S. 545. Here, if the Court of Appeals believed that the District Court's factual findings were "clearly erroneous" within the meaning of Rule 52(a), it could have set them aside, whereas, if it believed that the findings were unassailable, but that the proper rule of law was not correctly applied to those findings, it could have reversed the District Court's judgment on that ground. But it should not simply have made factual findings of its own. Pp. 475 U. S. 712-715.

774 F.2d 349, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post,

Page 475 U. S. 710

p. 475 U. S. 715.

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