Research Paper (minimum of 500 words total for two prompts)

Employment Law (heading)
In Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) the Supreme Court reviewed a New York minimum work hours law for bakers, Bakeshop Act, which prohibited New Yorkers from working in a bakery more than 10 hours in one day or 60 hours per week. The Supreme Court held the Bakeshop Act interfered with the freedom of contract and the right to liberty afforded to employers and workers under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court reasoned

The general right to make a contract in relation to his business is part of the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and this includes the right to purchase and sell labor, except as controlled by the [state] in the legitimate exercise of its police power. Liberty of contract relating to labor includes both parties to it; the one has as much right to purchase as the other to sell labor. There is no reasonable ground, on the score of health, for interfering with the liberty of the person or the right of free contract, by determining the hours of labor, in the occupation of a baker. Nor can a law limiting such hours be justified as a health law to safeguard the public health, or the health of the [persons] following that occupation. (198 U.S. 45, 45 (1905))

Lochner was overturned by West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937). Under Washington state law, the Industrial Welfare Committee and Supervisor of Women in Industry set a minimum wage of $14.50 for each work week of 48 hours. Parrish, an employee of the West Coast Hotel Company, received an amount less than this wage. The Supreme Court held that the establishment of minimum wages for women was constitutional and did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court reasoned

Deprivation of liberty to contract is forbidden by the Constitution if without due process of law, but restraint or regulation of this liberty, if reasonable in relation to its subject and if adopted for the protection of the community against evils menacing the health, safety, morals and welfare of the people, is due process. (300 U. S. 379, 391 (1937)). In dealing with the relation of employer and employed, the legislature has necessarily a wide field of discretion in order that there may be suitable protection of … freedom from oppression (300 U.S. 379, 393 (1937)).

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, a federal law, stablishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. The FLSA applies only to covered employers.

There are other Supreme Court cases that are relevant and can be used in support of a student’s conclusion.

1. First Document: Research Paper (minimum of 500 words total for two prompts) Continued:

Prompt 1: Write a persuasive argument supporting or opposing the government’s interference with liberty to contract between an employer and worker. Focus on legal arguments supporting either liberty to contract or government restrictions on liberty to contract based on public interest. Research on historical events may also be used to support the conclusion. Do not include morals, ethics, or any analysis other than a legal and historical analysis.

* Support the conclusion using only Supreme Court of the United States cases, federal laws, and historical events. Be specific. Define and explain important terms and federal laws. If a student uses a Supreme Court case identify and explain case facts, holding, and the reason for the holding.

Argumentative essay writing explanation:

Christian Ethics (heading)

Prompt 2: From a Christian worldview, explain whether it is ethical or unethical for the government to establish a minimum wage for workers, thus interfering with employers and workers liberty to contract.

* Explain and support the conclusion using more than one directly quoted Bible verse. If needed, students may also use biblical scholars to support and explain the specific Bible verses or conclusion.



Sample Answer

Sample Answer


Employment Law

Prompt 1: Government Interference with Liberty to Contract

The debate surrounding government interference with the liberty to contract between employers and workers has been a contentious issue in American legal history. The Supreme Court rulings in Lochner v. New York (1905) and West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937) provide contrasting perspectives on this matter.

In Lochner v. New York, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s Bakeshop Act, which set limits on the working hours of bakers. The Court held that such legislation interfered with the freedom of contract protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Peckham, writing for the majority, argued that there was no valid reason, whether related to health or public interest, to restrict the hours of labor for bakers. This decision emphasized the principle of contractual freedom and limited government intervention in economic relations.

Conversely, the West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish case marked a shift in judicial attitude towards labor laws. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld Washington state’s minimum wage law, rejecting the notion that such regulations violated the Due Process Clause. Justice Hughes, delivering the opinion, highlighted that reasonable regulations aimed at protecting the health, safety, and welfare of workers were constitutional and fell within the state’s police power.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 further solidified the government’s role in regulating labor relations by establishing minimum wage standards and overtime pay requirements. This federal law demonstrated a recognition of the need to balance economic interests with social welfare concerns.

While historical events like the Lochner era underscored a more laissez-faire approach to economic regulation, subsequent developments such as the New Deal reforms and the FLSA reflected an acknowledgment of the government’s responsibility to safeguard workers’ rights and promote fair labor practices.

In conclusion, a legal analysis reveals that while the liberty to contract is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, government restrictions on this liberty can be justified when they serve legitimate public interests such as safeguarding workers’ well-being and ensuring economic fairness.

Christian Ethics

Prompt 2: Ethical Implications of Government-Mandated Minimum Wage from a Christian Worldview

From a Christian perspective, the question of whether it is ethical for the government to establish a minimum wage involves considerations of justice, compassion, and stewardship. The Bible provides guidance on issues related to labor, fair compensation, and care for the vulnerable.

In Leviticus 19:13, it is stated, “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” This verse emphasizes the importance of just wages and timely compensation for labor. It underscores God’s concern for fair treatment of workers and highlights the ethical imperative of ensuring that individuals are compensated fairly for their work.

Proverbs 31:8-9 further emphasizes the call to speak up for those who cannot advocate for themselves: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This passage underscores the Christian duty to protect the vulnerable and promote social justice, including fair wages and dignified work conditions.

In light of these biblical principles, it can be argued that government-mandated minimum wage laws are consistent with Christian ethics. By setting a floor on wages, such laws aim to prevent exploitation, alleviate poverty, and uphold human dignity. They reflect a commitment to justice and compassion towards those who may be marginalized or economically disadvantaged.

While some may view minimum wage regulations as an infringement on liberty to contract, from a Christian worldview, such measures can be seen as a means of advancing God’s call for fairness, compassion, and stewardship in economic relationships. Just as Jesus taught about caring for the least among us, ensuring fair wages through government intervention aligns with Christian values of love, justice, and solidarity with the vulnerable in society.

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