Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412; 28 S. Ct. 324; 52 L. Ed. 551 (1908)

Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412; 28 S. Ct. 324; 52 L. Ed. 551 (1908)

Facts—An Oregon statute made illegal the employment of women in any mechanical establishment, factory, or laundry for more than ten hours during the day. Muller was convicted and fined for violating this statute in his laundry.

Question—Is the Oregon statute constitutional?


ReasonsJ. Brewer (9–0). In Lochner v. New York (1905), the Court held that a law prohibiting a man from working more than ten hours a day was an unreasonable and arbitrary interference with his liberty to contract in relation to labor. A woman’s physical well-being “becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race” and thus justifies the “special legislation restricting or qualifying the conditions under which she should be permitted to toil.” The two sexes differ. This difference justifies a difference in legislation.

Note—In Muller Louis D. Brandeis, counsel for Oregon and a future Supreme Court justice, introduced what came to be known as the “Brandeis Brief”—a brief-preparing style that emphasized economics and sociology rather than precedent.

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