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Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
458 U.S. 564 (1982)


Facts

Danny Griffin (plaintiff) worked for Oceanic Contractors, Inc. (the Company) (defendant), as a welder on ships in the North Sea. Griffin and the Company entered into a contract, providing that if Griffin quit or was terminated for cause prior to the end of the contract, Griffin would be responsible for the cost of transportation back to the United States. The Company withheld a total of $412.50 from Griffin’s paychecks as a deposit for that purpose. When Griffin was injured on the job prior to the end of the contract, the Company refused to pay Griffin the $412.50 for transportation. Griffin began working in a new job for another employer approximately a month later. Griffin sued the Company for failing to pay the wages that were due. The trial court found in favor of Griffin and awarded damages of $23,670.40. Part of the damages, $6,881.60, constituted penalty wages under 46 U.S.C. § 596, which assessed a penalty of two times a day’s pay for each and every day that payment was delayed. The trial court applied this penalty to the time period between Griffin’s injury and the commencement of Griffin’s new job. Griffin appealed the award of damages to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the award. Griffin then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

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Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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