The case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish et al. presents a challenge to the constitutionality of Washington State's minimum wage law for women and minors, which aims to protect them from harmful labor conditions by establishing a commission to set reasonable standards for wages and labor conditions. The law obliges employers to pay a minimum wage determined by the commission. The appellant, a hotel owner, is appealing a judgment against them for not paying the state-mandated minimum wage of $14.50 per week for 48 hours of work, arguing that the law violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court is reexamining the Adkins case, which the appellant cites to support their challenge, given the economic conditions and importance of the question at hand, although the lower court's decision upholding the minimum wage law for women and minors is not in question.
The minimum wage statute of Washington has been upheld twice and is similar to Oregon's. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows for reasonable regulation in the interests of the community, and the state has a special interest in protecting women in the workplace. The Adkins case was not consistent with the principles governing the regulation of the employer-employee relationship, and the legislature has the right to consider the situation of women in the workforce. The exploitation of workers who lack bargaining power and are unable to earn a living wage harms their health and well-being and places a burden on the community to support them. The Adkins case is overruled, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington is affirmed.
The court is considering the constitutionality of a Washington statute that fixes wages for adult women, which is found to be invalid because it exacts an arbitrary payment from the employer without any causal connection to the business, contract, or work the employee engages to do. State statutes that fix minimum wages for adult women while allowing adult men and their employers to bargain freely are arbitrary and discriminatory. Legislation that restricts only the rights of women to make contracts as to wages creates an arbitrary discrimination, as the contractual rights of men and women are the same. A law that sets fixed wages in different industries and prohibits employers and employees from negotiating other wages may be unconstitutional. The Adkins and Tipaldo cases provide further discussion on this issue.
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