Muller v. Oregon
208 U.S. 412 (1908)

  • Oregon passed a law saying that businesses couldn’t make women work more than 10 hours per day. Muller challenged the law as unconstitutional.
    • Muller pointed to the recent decision in Lochner v. New York (198 U.S. 45 (1905)), which held that a New York law limiting the hours a bakery could make employees work was unconstitutional.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld the law.
    • The US Supreme Court looked at Lochner, which said that the government can interfere with freedom of contract only to serve a valid police purpose of protecting public health, public safety or public morals.
    • In this case, based on a famous brief by future Justice Brandeis, the Court found that women would suffer health issues if asked to work long hours.
      • Presumably because they are more ‘delicate’ than men.
    • Since there was a legitimate public health issue, Oregon’s police powers were sufficient to override the constitutional guarantee of freedom of contract.