Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Labor Law


Paul H. Sanders

First Page



The body of statutory wording, regulations and court and administrative decisions which clusters around such familiar federal landmarks as the Labor-Management Relations Act ("Taft-Hartley") and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("Wage and Hour") fall far short of constituting the entire subject matter of Labor Law. State statutes or the common law of the state may be much more in point in providing the legal framework for solving a particular problem of the employment relationship, whether viewed individually or collectively. The law which governs the various aspects of the "human factor in industry," or which prescribes the ground rules under which the parties themselves govern these aspects, may require consideration, even in a single case, of succeeding levels of legality extending from municipal ordinances to the Constitution of the United States. It continues to be a problem of great difficulty to distinguish those situations where the law of the state is applicable, even though some aspect of interstate commerce is involved, and those where a federal statute has "occupied the field."' Even though federal law is controlling because Congress has evidenced an intention to preempt the subject matter, the state court is not necessarily prevented from applying that federal law in deciding the case before it. It may 'be, however, that Congress has not only written federal law on the subject but is considered to have given exclusive jurisdiction over certain determinations under that law to a particular federal agency. In such a situation, the doctrine of"primary jurisdiction" ousts the state courts and federal courts,too," the first instance --from making a similar determination. The"decisions of Tennessee appellate courts in the period under consideration provide illustrations of some of these varying relationships between federal and state labor law.