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Michigan Legal Milestones
20. Mount Clemens Pottery

Michigan's Justice Frank Murphy in 1946 authored an important labor law decision of the United States Supreme Court interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act arising out of a case involving employee working time. Dedicated on September 1, 1994, at the Riverfront Gazebo by the Municipal Building in Mt. Clemens. Placed at the Macomb County courthouse in Mt. Clemens along the wall by the statue of General Clemens.

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Mount Clemens Pottery

The Fair Labor Standards Act (the Act) was enacted by Congress in 1938 to regulate workers' hours and wages. The United States Supreme Court interpreted an important provision of the Act in 1946 in a case arising in Mount Clemens.

The Mount Clemens Pottery Company, opened in 1914, was for many years a major area employer. During World War II the company employed about 1,200 workers, who punched timecards upon arrival, but were paid only when productive time began, which as calculated by the company was 14 minutes later. The employees, represented by Edward Lamb of Toledo, sued, alleging a violation of the Act. Bert V. Nunneley of Mount Clemens and Frank E. Cooper of Detroit represented the Pottery. A decision in the employees' favor by the U.S. District Court was overturned by the Court of Appeals.

Justice Frank Murphy, a former Michigan governor and mayor of Detroit, wrote the 1946 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court reversing the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court held that time spent by employees in walking to work after punching a time clock, and in preparing to start work, constituted working time within the overtime provisions of the Act. The following year, Congress, responding to the Mount Clemens Pottery decision, enacted the Portal-to-Portal Act to relieve employers of the obligation to pay for time spent in nonproductive activities, except where such activities are compensable through custom or contract, notably through collective bargaining.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Macomb County Bar Association, 1994.