Case Name: Muller v. Oregon
Citation: 208 U.S. 412 (1908)
Issue: Whether an Oregon act that limited the amount of hours a woman could work interfered with the right to contract under the 14th amendment.
Facts: Oregon had an act that limited the hours a woman could work in a mechanical establishment, factory, or laundry. The defendant was convicted of violating this act in a laundry. Attorney Louis Brandeis wrote a 113 page brief (known as the Brandeis brief ) that detailed how long hours are dangerous for women because of “(a) the physical organization of women, (b) her maternal functions, (c) the rearing and education of the children, and (d) the maintenance of the home.”
Holding: The act is not in conflict with the Federal Constitution.
Reasoning: Although the general right to contract is protected by the 14th amendment, “liberty is not absolute and extending to all contracts” and a state may restrict an individual’s power of contract. Here, the court took into account woman’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions. Legislation protecting women, who are in a class by themselves, may be sustained even when like legislation for men may not be sustained.