Criminal complaint brought against plaintiff in error in the Superior Court within and for the county of Bristol charging him with the violation of a statute of the State
A demurrer and motion to quash were filed, alleging the unconstitutionality of the statute.
The charge was dismissed as to Annie Manning, and plaintiff in error was convicted as to the charge in regard to Nora Callahan, and sentenced to pay a fine of $50.00. The sentence was affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court, and its rescript having been sent to the trial court, this writ of error was sued out.
The first contention of plaintiff in error is that the statute restricts the right to sell and buy labor, and therein infringes the liberty of contract assured by Art. XIV of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The contention is untenable expressed in this generality. In Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412, against a similar contention, a statute of Oregon was sustained which prohibited the employment of women in mechanical factories or laundries working more than ten hours during any one day, with power, as in the Massachusetts statute, to apportion the hours through the day.
But special objections are made which, it is contended, make Muller v. Oregon inapplicable. The prohibition of the statute under review, it is said, "is not restricted to times and places which relate to and naturally and logically affect a woman's health, safety or morals or the welfare of herself or the public." Such are the conditions necessary to the validity of a statute, restricting employment,
The provision is arbitrary and unreasonable, it is insisted, in that it requires the employer to post a notice in a room in which women and minors are permanently employed in laboring only six hours a day and makes it a crime if such person is allowed to work for five minutes at a time other than as stated in the notice. But if we might imagine that an employer would so enlarge the restrictions of the statute or be charged with violating it if he did, we yet must remember that as it was competent for the State to restrict the hours of employment it is also competent for the State to provide administrative means against evasion of the restriction. Chicago, B. & Q.R.R. Co. v. McGuire, 219 U.S. 549; St. John v. New York, 201 U.S. 633. Neither the wisdom nor the legality of such means can be judged by extreme instances of their operation. The provision of § 48 cannot be pronounced arbitrary. As said by the Supreme Judicial Court, the statute "requires the hours of labor to be stipulated in advance, and then to be followed until a change is made. It does not by its terms establish a schedule of hours. This is left to the free action of the parties. Nor does it in the sections now under consideration restrict the right to labor to any particular hours. See People v. Williams, 189 N.Y. 131. It simply makes imperative strict observance of any one table of hours of labor while it remains posted.
"The end of the statute is the protection of women within constitutional limits, and the requirement that the hours posted in the notice shall be followed is a means to
There is a contention somewhat tentatively made by plaintiff in error that the statute offends the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It will be observed that § 48 provides that the printed form of the "notice shall be provided by the chief of the district police, after approval by the attorney general." And counsel say, "If it be claimed that such a notice must first be approved by the Attorney General of the State, our reply is that the statute says the form shall be approved; but if it is held that the Attorney General is to approve the number of hours and that the Attorney General may say what the number of hours shall be, then he could approve or disapprove different notices stating different numbers of hours of employment by different employers. This seems to us to be a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment as denying equal protection of the laws."
And again counsel say, as a specification of the unreasonableness of the statute as an exercise of the police power of the State, "By approval of different schedules by the Attorney General, the law may operate unequally in different employments." This supposition is based on the other, that is, that something else than the form of notice is to be prescribed by the Attorney General. But counsel assert that it is the form only which the Attorney General is to approve, and the assertion is not denied. There is, therefore, nothing tangible in the contention. Besides, it has no justification in the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court.