West Coast Hotel V. Parrish

(300 U. S. 379 1937)
   In West Coast Hotel v. Parrish on 29 March 1937, the Supreme Court suddenly reversed itself when it ruled by a five to four majority that the minimum wage law introduced in Washington in 1932 was constitutional. This decision not only overturned the decision in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923), but it also saw Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen J. Roberts abandon the conservative majority in what Roberts referred to as a “switch in time that saved nine.” The decision to uphold the claim brought by a hotel worker, Elsie Parrish, who had been paid less than the minimum, was based on the argument that liberty of contract could be restricted to protect the community or vulnerable groups, in this case a “class of workers in an unequal position with respect to bargaining power.” In changing direction, the court did much to avert the confrontation that had led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to attempt to alter the composition of the court through his “court packing” proposal.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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