Muller v. Oregon

Because of the delicate nature of women, Muller v. Oregon (1908) limited women’s work hours, which was inconsistent with pass rulings like the Lochner case.

When it comes to Muller v. Oregon, here’s the simple facts. The state of Oregon (Respondent) enacted a statute which limited women’s work to ten hours; that is, Oregon wanted to protect the health of women. That being said, Curt Muller (Petitioner) was charged with violating the statute.

The Supreme Court had to decide this issue. Does the Oregon statute violate the Fourteenth Amendment?

The Court held this rule: The Oregon law was constitutional when it came to the state interest of protecting women’s health.

In the future, cases like Buck v. Bell (1927) would cite this ruling. In Buck, the state had an interest in protecting women’s health even if it meant sterilization. Although a horrible case, the state does have an interest in protecting women’s health.

Also, Roe v. Wade (1973) was consistent with this ruling. In Roe, the court said a women doesn’t have an absolute right to her body. The state has an interest in her health. Therefore, a state can pass bans on abortions if it will effect the health of women in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Notably, the Muller case is famous for the Brandeis Brief. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote this brief, which provided reasons why women shouldn’t work. Namely, woman’s uterus might fall out if long hours were worked. Although the report was later refuted, the Brandeis Report failed at combining law and social science.

However, social science would emerge in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this case, the famous footnote 14 cited the Doll Test and social science. Here, social science was used to support an argument for desegregation of public education.

In regards to past cases involving maximum work hour laws, the Supreme Court ruled inconsistently with Muller. For example, in Lochner v. New York (1905), the Supreme Court invalidated a 60 hour work week law; however, in Mullor, the court upheld a ten hour work law for women, although only three years after Lochner. Once again, the court ruled inconsistently in Muller.

In summary, the Mullor case limited women’s work hours. The Brandeis Report was used to justify this ruling. Moreover, this case considered an example of protectionism for men in the work place.