Walters v. Metropolitan Ed. Enterprises, Inc., 519 U.S. 202, 10 (1997)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 202 (1997)

Opinion of the Court

quired the parties to spend 10 months poring over Metropolitan's payroll registers, timecards, work diaries, and other timekeeping records to determine, for each working day of a 2-year period, how many employees were at work, how many were being paid on salaries, how many were on paid holiday leave, how many were on paid vacation leave, and how many were on paid sick leave. For an employer with 15 employees and a 5-day workweek, the number of daily working histories for the 2-year period is 7,800. The problems with Metropolitan's compensation-based approach are magnified when employees are "compensated" on days off in ways less clear cut than holiday, vacation, or sick leave. If, for example, employees accumulate seniority rights or entitlements to holiday bonuses on their unpaid days off, it would be necessary to determine (or litigate) whether they are "receiving compensation" on those days for purposes of the coverage determination. Under the interpretation we adopt, by contrast, all one needs to know about a given employee for a given year is whether the employee started or ended employment during that year and, if so, when. He is counted as an employee for each working day after arrival and before departure.


As we have described, in determining the existence of an employment relationship, petitioners look first and primarily to whether the individual in question appears on the employer's payroll. Metropolitan did not challenge this aspect of petitioners' approach; its objection was the more basic one that existence of an employment relationship was not the criterion. For their part, petitioners emphasize that what is ultimately critical under their method is the existence of an employment relationship, not appearance on the payroll; an individual who appears on the payroll but is not an "employee" under traditional principles of agency law, see, e. g., Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U. S. 318, 323-324 (1992), would not count toward the 15-employee minimum.


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