When it comes to constitutional law and labor issues, Muller v. Oregon (1908) was a labor case upholding sexual discrimination.
Here’s the facts of Muller. Curt Muller, Petitioner, violated an Oregon statute limiting the hours a women worked to 10 hours a day.
Muller dealt with a constitutional issue. Basically was this statute constitutional, which limits the hours women work? This was the issue before the Supreme Court.
Muller set forth an important rule in constitutional law of that era. The rule was states can limit a women’s work hours if it effected women’s health. This became possible under the 14 amendment due process right.
The decision was 9 to 0. It was unanimous. Majority opinion was delivered by David J. Brewer.
Brewer delivered the holding of Muller. He said, “Women, like minors, are a special class of worker that needs protection. This statute is within the state’s police power to protect the health of the general public because the physical well-being of women is paramount to the production of healthy offspring.”
Sexual discrimination was another issue in Muller. The case answered this question: Could the state pass a law limiting the amount of hours women work? The case said yes.
Muller was the outlier in a Lochner era. Lochner said states can pass no maximum hour laws under Due Process Clause, which violated the liberty of economic contract. Muller said states can pass maximum hour laws for women health, which violated the liberty of economic contract. Lochner and Muller were inconsistent decisions that came out a few years apart.
Muller said women were weak; therefore, women need to work less. Meanwhile, men could work all they wanted at this time. Muller reflected a paternalistic attitude of the govt toward women.
The leading social research of the times was utilized in Muller. The decision said: “The physical organization of women, her maternal functions, the rearing and education of children and the maintenance of the home.” This was cutting edge social research.
In the final analysis, Muller would be cited in controversial cases. In Roe v. Wade, the state would have an interest in the health of the mother when getting an abortion. In Buck v bell, the state would have a health interest in sterilizing “imbeciles”. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the state would have a health interest in forcibly vaccinate people. Muller said the state has an interest in women’s health.