The White Court (1910–21)


In what decision did the Court uphold a ten-hour work day for mill and factory workers?

The White Court ruled 5–3 (Justice Louis D. Brandeis did not participate) in Bunting v. Oregon (1917) that an Oregon law limiting workers in mills, factories, and manufacturing establishments to a ten-hour work day was constitutional. Franklin Bunting, a foreman at the Lake View Flouring Mill, was charged with violating the law by employing a Mr. Hammersly for thirteen hours in one day. The law allowed for workers to work an extra three hours, but provided that the extra three hours must be paid as overtime, that is, time-and-a-half. Bunting did not pay the worker overtime and, thus, the charges were filed.

Future U.S. Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter defended the law before the high court, arguing that it was necessary to protect the health and safety of the workers. The Court refused to overrule the legislative judgment that the law furthered these health and safety interests. The Court also rejected an argument that the law discriminated against mills, factories, and manufacturing establishments. Chief Justice White, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Justice Willis Van Devanter dissented without issuing an opinion.


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