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U.S. Supreme Court

Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587 (1936)

Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo

No. 838

Argued April 28, 29, 1936

Decided June 1, 1936

298 U.S. 587


1. This Court, in certiorari cases, confines itself to the ground upon which the writ was asked for and granted. P. 298 U. S. 604.

2. A New York Act, Laws of 1933, c. 584, declares it to be against public policy for any employer to employ any woman at an oppressive or unreasonable wage, defined as one which is

"both less than the fair and reasonable value of the services rendered and less than sufficient to meet the minimum cost of living necessary for health;"

it defines "a fair wage" as one "fairly and reasonably commensurate with the value of the service or class of service rendered," and empowers a commissioner, if he be of the opinion that any substantial number of women in any occupation are receiving "oppressive and unreasonable" wages, to appoint a wage board to make inquiry and report its recommendations as to minimum fair wage standards. Standards so reported, when accepted by the commissioner, after publication and further hearings, may be enforced by his mandatory order, violation of which is punishable by fine and imprisonment. The New York Court of Appeals in this case construed the statute as requiring that the minimum wages to be fixed under it shall be not only equal to the fair and reasonable value of the services rendered, but also sufficient to meet the minimum cost of living necessary for health, and decided that, so construed, it was unconstitutional.


(1) This Court is bound to accept the state court's construction of the statute. Pp. 298 U. S. 605, 298 U. S. 609.

(2) So far as concerns the validity of this Act, the restraint imposed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment upon the legislative power of the State is the same as that imposed by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment upon the legislative power of the United States. P. 298 U. S. 610.

(3) The Act, as construed by the state court, is in conflict with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U. S. 525. P. 298 U. S. 609 et seq.

3. The decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital, supra, and the reasoning upon which it rests, clearly show that the State is without power by any form of legislation to prohibit, change, or

Page 298 U. S. 588

nullify contracts between employers and adult women workers as to the amount of wages to be paid. The dominant issue in that case was whether Congress had power to establish minimum wages for adult women workers in the District of Columbia. The opinion directly answers in the negative. The ruling that defects in the prescribed standard stamped the Act of Congress as arbitrary and invalid was an additional ground of subordinate consequence. P. 298 U. S. 610.

4. The "factual background" of this case does not distinguish it in principle from the Adkins case, supra. P. 298 U. S. 614.

270 N.Y. 233 affirmed.

Certiorari, 297 U.S. 702, to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of New York, entered on remittitur from the Court of Appeals. Tipaldo had been placed in custody on a charge of disobeying an administrative order prescribing minimum wages for women employees. The trial court's dismissal of a writ of habeas corpus was reversed by the decision under review.

Page 298 U. S. 602

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