Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

Under Washington state law, the Industrial Welfare Committee and Supervisor of Women in Industry set a minimum wage of $14.50 for each work week of 48 hours. Elsie Parrish, an employee of the West Coast Hotel Company, received an amount less than this wage. Parrish brought a suit to recover the difference between the wages paid to her and the minimum wage fixed by state law. In ruling for the hotel, the lower court relied on Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923), in which the Court struck down a minimum wage law for working women. 


  1. Does a minimum wage law for women violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment?


  1. In a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the Court held that the establishment of minimum wages for women was constitutional. Echoing Muller v. Oregon (1908), the majority ruled that the state may use its police power to restrict the individual freedom to contract. The decision overruled Adkins and marked the Court's departure from the expansive view of the freedom to contract. The decision is generally regarded as having ended the Lochner era, a period in American legal history in which the Supreme Court tended to invalidate legislation aimed at regulating business. While Justice Hughes wrote the opinion, the stark doctrinal shift resulted from Justice Owen Josephus Roberts changing his perspective on this issue. According to Hughes, President Franklin Roosevelt's reelection in 1936 and the impressive achievements of the New Deal caused Roberts to abandon his affiliation with the Court's conservative justices. In dissent, Justice George Sutherland implicitly criticized Roberts for changing sides and argued that politics and public opinion should not impact the Court’s understanding of the Constitution.

Can Americans Reconcile Our Constitutional System With an Expansive Administrative State?

Can Americans Reconcile Our Constitutional System With an Expansive Administrative State?

Federalist Society Review, Volume 19

A review of: Bureaucracy in America: The Administrative State’s Challenge to Constitutional Government, by Joseph...