Lochner v. New York 198 U.S. 45 (1905)

This case, affectionately referred to as Lochner, or used in jest when describing someone as "lochnering around," refers to a case involving various workers in the bread and pastry baking industry in New York at the turn of the century. The New York law limited the number of hours that a baker could work in a day to 10, and the number of hours per week to 60. The justification for the law dealt with the labor intensive process, and the fact that many bakeries were hot and not well ventilated. Flour inhalation (somewhat like the modern day equivalent of asbestos) was one of the hazards of the trade.

In a decision which may seem shocking in retrospect, especially considering comparable employment laws now, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the law was unconstitutional via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The clause reads as follows: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."Specifically, The Court found that a person's liberty includes the liberty to enter into a contract. Thus, if baker's want to suffer from flour inhalation, or work an inhumane amount of hours, then the New York legislature cannot prevent them from doing that.

The period following Lochner, is often referred to as the "Lochner Era," since The Supreme Court acted to strike down many similar laws designed to protect workers and other economic regulations.

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