Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, (1923), U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court invalidated a board established by Congress to set minimum wages for women workers in the District of Columbia. Congress in 1918 had authorized the Wage Board to ascertain and fix adequate wages for women employees in the nation’s capital.
The court ruled in a 5–3 vote that the law authorizing the Wage Board infringed upon Fifth Amendment guarantees of life, liberty, and property. Employer and employee, according to the majority opinion, had a constitutional right to contract in whatever manner they pleased. Thus, the establishment of the Wage Board was an unjustified interference with the freedom of contract.
In their dissent, justices William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Edward T. Sanford argued that Congress had the policing power to correct recognizable evils. The effects of Adkins v. Children’s Hospital were reversed in West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish (1937), when the Supreme Court overturned the position that had been adopted by the court’s conservative majority and ruled that some government intervention in contracts between employers and employees is not unconstitutional.
Written by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
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