Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

The state of New York enacted a statute known as the Bakeshop Act, which forbid bakers to work more than 60 hours a week or 10 hours a day. Lochner was accused of permitting an employee to work more than 60 hours in one week. The first charge resulted in a fine of $25, and a second charge a few years later resulted in a fine of $50. While Lochner did not challenge his first conviction, he appealed the second, but was denied in state court. Before the Supreme Court, he argued that the Fourteenth Amendment should have been interpreted to contain the freedom to contract among the rights encompassed by substantive due process. 


  1. Does the Bakeshop Act violate the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?


  1. The Court invalidated the New York law. The majority maintained that the statute interfered with the freedom of contract, and thus the Fourteenth Amendment's right to liberty afforded to employer and employee. The Court further held that the New York law failed the rational basis test for determining whether government action is constitutional. The majority reasoned that the Bakeshop Act had no rational basis because long working hours did not dramatically undermine the health of employees, and baking is not particularly dangerous. Broadly interpreting state authority to regulate under its police powers, Justice Harlan in his dissent articulated reasoning that would inform later decisions in the post-Lochner era. Rather than requiring the government to prove that a law had a rational basis, he would require the party challenging the law to prove that the test was not met. (This is the current rule.)

The Federalist Paper, Summer 2019

The Federalist Paper, Summer 2019

On March 15–16, the Federalist Society student chapter at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College...