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Lochner v. New York

Effect On Women

For years the economic rights upheld in Lochner v. New York were used to invalidate laws regulating the hours, wages, and work conditions of women (for instance, Adkins v. Children's Hospital in 1923). During the 1930s, the Court relied on Lochner to frustrate the New Deal legislation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making it a symbol of unfairness. In 1940, the Court formally disavowed the Lochner philosophy in United States v. Darby. By this time, most states had already enacted laws protecting women in the workplace. In the climate of reform, few imagined the disastrous effects that the laws-despite their immediate relief--would have on women's employment opportunities.

Protective legislation for women may have harmed as well as helped female workers. Because women were "protected" from performing equally with men in lifting, working night shifts, selling spirits, and working while pregnant--to give a few examples--they suffered disastrous economic discrimination. Since they could not compete equally with men, they did not earn equal wages, obtain the same jobs, win promotions, or receive equal benefits. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, brought the promise of relief. Seven years later, the Supreme Court for the first time sued a company under the act for sex-discrimination. The case was United States v. Libbey-Owens-Ford, and it marked an historic turning point in the equal treatment of women in the workplace.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Lochner v. New York - Significance, A Baker's Lawyer, Due Process And Daniel Webster, A Surprise Verdict