St. Louis, Iron Mountain & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Paul
173 U.S. 404 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis, Iron Mountain & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Paul, 173 U.S. 404 (1899)

St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Saint Paul Railway Company v. Paul

No. 120

Submitted January 10, 1899

Decided March 6, 1899

173 U.S. 404

Syllabus

The act of the Legislature of Arkansas of March 25, 1889, entitled an act to provide for the protection of servants and employs of railroads, is not in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States.

This action was commenced in a justice's court in Saline Township, Saline County, Arkansas, by Charles Paul against the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Arkansas and owning and operating a railroad within that state, to recover $21.80 due him as a laborer and a penalty of $1.25 per day for failure to pay him what was due him when he was discharged. The case was carried by appeal to the Circuit Court of Saline County, and there tried de novo. Defendant demurred to so much of the complaint as sought to recover the penalty on the ground that the act of the General Assembly of Arkansas entitled "An act to provide for the protection of servants and employees of railroads," approved March 25, 1889, Acts Ark. 1889, 76, which provided therefor, was in violation of Articles V and XIV of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and also in violation of the Constitution of the State of Arkansas. The demurrer was overruled, and defendant answered, setting up certain matters not material here and reiterating in its third paragraph the

Page 173 U. S. 405

objection that the act was unconstitutional and void. To this paragraph plaintiff demurred, and the demurrer was sustained. The case was then heard by the court, the parties having waived a trial by jury, and the court found that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the sum claimed and the penalty at the rate of daily wages from the date of the discharge until the date of the commencement of the suit, and entered judgment accordingly. Defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Arkansas, which affirmed the judgment, 64 Ark. 83, and this writ of error was then brought.

The act in question is as follows:

"Section 1. Whenever any railroad company or any company, corporation, or person engaged in the business of operating or constructing any railroad or railroad bridge, or any contractor or subcontractor engaged in the construction of any such road or bridge shall discharge, with or without cause, or refuse to further employ any servant or employee thereof, the unpaid wages of any such servant or employee, then earned at the contract rate, without abatement or deduction, shall be and become due and payable on the day of such discharge or refusal to longer employ, and if the same be not paid on such day, then, as a penalty for such nonpayment, the wages of such servant or employee shall continue at the same rate until paid, provided such wages shall not continue more than sixty days unless an action therefor shall be commenced within that time."

"SEC. 2. That no such servant or employee who secretes or absents himself to avoid payment to him or refuses to receive the same when fully tendered shall be entitled to any benefit under this act for such time as he so avoids payment."

"SEC. 3. That any such servant or employee whose employment is for a definite period of time and who is discharged without cause before the expiration of such time may, in addition to the penalties prescribed by this act, have an action against any such employer for any damages he may have sustained by reason of such wrongful discharge, and such action may be joined with an action for unpaid wages and penalty. "

Page 173 U. S. 406

"SEC. 4. That this act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage."

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