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Adkins v. Children’s Hospital

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Brief Fact Summary. In 1918, the District of Columbia passed a statute that established a minimum wage for women and children, the constitutionality of which was challenged in this matter.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The freedom to contract may be restricted only when exceptional circumstances exist as they relate to the police powers of a state.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Nevertheless, freedom of contract is the general rule and restraint the exception; and the exercise of legislative authority to abridge it can be justified only by the existence of exceptional circumstances.

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Facts. The District of Columbia imposed a law upon all employers forcing them to pay their women and child workers a predetermined minimum wage.

Issue. Is the fixing of a minimum wage for children and women constitutional?

Held. No. It is inappropriate to restrict a woman’s freedom to contract for her labor service when such restriction is not equally applied to a man. The payment of a minimum wage puts a burden on the employer that is completely unrelated to his business.

Discussion. This case reflects the change in society’s regard for the female worker. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) expressly recognizes that a mature woman has the same contracting competence as a man. The Supreme Court decides to side with the business owners and the economic consequence that a minimum wage would have on them. Specifically, the closing of businesses is mentioned as a detractor and weighed against the potential thriftiness or lack thereof of women workers.

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