Miller v. Wilson
Annotate this Case
236 U.S. 373 (1915)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Miller v. Wilson, 236 U.S. 373 (1915)
Miller v. Wilson
Argued and submitted January 12, 1915
Decided February 23, 1915
236 U.S. 373
The liberty of contract guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is freedom from arbitrary restraint, not immunity from reasonable regulation to safeguard the public interest. In determining the constitutionality of a state police statute, the question is whether its restrictions have reasonable relation to a proper purpose, and reasonable regulations limiting the hours of labor of women are within the scope of legislative action. Muller v. Oregon, 208 U. S. 412; Riley v. Massachusetts, 232 U. S. 671; Hawley v. Walker, 232 U.S. 718.
While the limitation of the hours of labor of women may be pushed to an indefensible extreme, the limit of reasonable exertion of the protective authority of the state is not overstepped and liberty of contract unduly abridged by a statute prescribing eight hours a day or a maximum of forty-eight hours a week.
The legislature of a state is not debarred from classifying according to
general considerations and with regard to prevailing conditions; otherwise there could be no legislative power to classify.
The legislature is free to recognize degrees of harm, and may confine its restrictions to those classes where it deems the need is greatest, and if the law hits an evil where it is most felt, the prohibition need not be all-embracing. Keokee Coke Co. v. Taylor, 234 U. S. 227.
The statute of California of 1911 prohibiting the employment of women in certain businesses, including hotels, is not unconstitutional as to women employed in hotels, either as an unwarranted invasion of liberty of contract or as denying the equal protection of the law on the ground of unreasonable discrimination because of the omissions of certain classes of female laborers from its operation or because the classification is based on the employee's business, and not upon the character of the employee's work.
162 Cal. 687 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Women's Eight Hour Labor Law of California, are stated in the opinion.