Lochner v. New York (1905) and Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923)
The Court decided the Lochner case in 1905, ruling that a New York State law limiting the number of hours a baker could work to 60 per week was unconstitutional. In a 5-4 decision, they declared that the law removed a person's right to enter freely into contracts, violating the 14th Amendment. The specific clause being violated states, "any State [shall not] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
The Court heard the Adkins case in 1923. It regarded a Washington, D.C., law that set a minimum wage for female workers. It was overturned on similar grounds as the Lochner case.
Lochner set a major precedent that severely limited federal and state laws regulating working hours and wages. In fact, the period following the case is known as "The Lochner Era." However, the Adkins case was a key point in the women's rights movement in the U.S., which for decades debated absolute equality for women versus favoring only special protections and regulations for them.
The Lochner Era ended in 1937 when the Court decided West Coast Hotel v. Parrish. The matter involved a law very similar to the Adkins minimum wage law, but in this case, the Court decided that the 14th Amendment did not explicitly guarantee freedom of contract, and that such freedom could be limited by reasonable laws designed to protect workers' health and safety.