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Handout #6:
THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT AND PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS

Directions:
Read the facts, questions, and decisions in each of the cases below. Pay particular attention to how the decisions differ. After reading through all the cases, speculate on the order in which they were heard and decided. Mark your guesses in the left column of the page. Be prepared to give reasons for your opinions.

You will notice blank lines after each of the cases. Leave them blank until your teacher gives you more information after you watch a segment of video.


West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish
(year decided = _____)

Facts:
Prior to this case, the Court had struck down several laws on the basis that they interfered with industry's freedom to contract with workers. Elsie Parrish was a chambermaid working at the Cascadian Hotel in the state of Washington. After she was let go from her job, she learned that she had been paid less than the minimum wage required under state law. She sued the hotel to recover $216.19, the difference she believed she was owed. The hotel refused to pay her.

Constitutional question:
Did Washington State's minimum wage law violate the liberty of contract as construed under the Fifth Amendment as applied by the Fourteenth Amendment (because it is a state law)?

Decision:
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Washington statute to provide minimum wages to women. Regarding the liberty of contract, the Court said that employers and employees were not equally "free" in negotiating contracts because employees, especially women, were more constrained by economic and practical realities. The Court also noted that the Constitution does not mention "freedom of contract" and liberty interests are subject to the restraints of due process. The effect of this was to allow legislatures to address the needs of communities where and when disparities in the marketplace result in a system of "haves" and "have nots."

Background and context of the decision:







Lochner v. New York
(year decided = _____)

Facts:
In an effort to ensure public health and the safety of its citizens, the state of New York passed a law limiting the number of hours bakers could work. The law said that bakers could not work more than 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Joseph Lochner, the owner of a bakery, refused to obey the law and was fined $50 two times and ordered to stay in jail until he paid the fines. He challenged the law in court.

Constitutional question:
Did the New York law interfere with liberty protected by Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision:
The Supreme Court said that the law was not a reasonable attempt to act as a police power to protect public health. Instead, the Court said, this law attempted to regulate the employee/employer relationship, which was a violation of the liberty interests of the Fourteenth Amendment. With the Fourteenth Amendment, the Constitution limits the states in their ability to interfere with people's liberty and property. In effect, the Court said that if a person wanted to work more than the maximum number of hours in the law, the government should not interfere with his or her right to enter into a contract to do so.

Background and context of the decision:









Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York Funded by New York Life