Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587; 56 S. Ct. 918; 80 L.Ed. 1347 (1936)

Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587; 56 S. Ct. 918; 80 L.Ed. 1347 (1936)

Facts—Tipaldo was sent to jail upon the charge that, as manager of a laundry, he failed to obey the mandatory order of the state industrial commissioner of New York, prescribing minimum wages for women employees. Some of the employees were receiving less than the minimum wages established by the state industrial commissioner.

Question—Can a state fix minimum wages for women?


ReasonsJ. Butler (5–4). It was claimed that this case differed from the Adkins case in which such legislation was declared unconstitutional, in that here the minimum wage was prescribed in cases where the given wage was less than the fair and reasonable value of the services rendered and insufficient to meet the minimum cost of living necessary for health. This did not, however, change the principle of the case, namely, the exercise of legislative power to fix wages. The act left employers and men employees free to agree upon wages, but deprived employers and adult women of the same freedom. Likewise, women were restrained by the minimum wage in competition with men and were arbitrarily deprived of employment and a fair chance to find work. State legislation fixing wages for women is repugnant to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

C.J. Hughes and J. Stone authored dissents both questioning the majority’s continuing emphasis on freedom of contract in the face of possible exploitation of employees.

Note—Morehead was reversed by West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937), a year later, when Justice Roberts switched positions, “the switch in time that saved nine,” and took the starch out of President Roosevelt’s “court packing” attempt to increase the number of justices to fifteen and appoint new judges who were more sympathetic to his policies.

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