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West Coast Hotel v. Parrish

A Close Vote

On 29 March 1937, by a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court upheld the minimum wage law in Washington, ordering the West Coast Hotels Company to pay Parrish the money owed plus court costs. She declared, "I'm not sure I understand all the things but I'm glad its all over."

Two months after West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, 16 states added minimum wage laws to their books. The decision was the beginning of the end of strict judicial adherence to "freedom of contract," which had given employers an advantage probably needed earlier. It also paved the way for the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which one year later extended a minimum wage to workers regardless of gender.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, also called the Wages and Hours Law, established a federal minimum wage of 40 cents per hour and a maximum work week of 40 hours. It extended to men the benefits women had already won. The act prohibited employing children under the age of 16 and the hiring of 16- to 18-year-olds in hazardous occupations. The law applied only to enterprises that engaged in or affected interstate commerce, specifically exempting many other occupations, such as domestic, seasonal, agricultural, and professional jobs.

West Coast Hotel v. Parrish has been called "the switch in time that saved nine" because had the Court not overruled itself, President Franklin D. Roosevelt--angry that the Court had voided much of his New Deal legislation--would have "packed" it. Six of his own appointees would then have joined the other nine members in a blatant attempt to manipulate the Court's decisions.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940West Coast Hotel v. Parrish - Significance, A Test Case, A Close Vote, James Clark Mcreynolds, Further Readings