Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366; 18 S. Ct. 383; 42 L. Ed. 780 (1898)

Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366; 18 S. Ct. 383; 42 L. Ed. 780 (1898)

Facts—Utah enacted an eight-hour day for workmen in underground mines, smelters, and similar places for the reduction of ore and metals, except in the event of an emergency. Violation of the statute was made a misdemeanor. Plaintiff in error was convicted of employing men contrary to the terms of the statute. He challenged the validity of the statute upon the ground of an alleged violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, in that it abridged the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, deprived both the employer and the laborer of his property without due process of law, and denied to them the equal protection of the laws.

Question—Is the Utah law regulating the hours of work for miners and similar dangerous occupations constitutional?


ReasonsJ. Brown (7–2). The Court reasoned that the act was a valid exercise of the police power of the state. The enactment did not profess to limit the hours of all workmen, but merely those who are employed in underground mines, or in the smelting, reduction, or refining of ores and metals. These employments, when too long pursued, the legislature has judged to be detrimental to the health of the employees, and so long as there are reasonable grounds for believing that this is so, its decision upon this subject cannot be set aside by the federal courts.

J. Brewer and J. Peckham dissented without writing a formal opinion.

Note—Despite Holden and Muller v. Oregon (1908), upholding a ten-hour workday law applying to women in industry, and Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113 (1877), fixing rates in Chicago grain elevators, the Court generally followed the principles of substantive due process well into the 1930s.

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